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MAC Wrap - Week 2
After two weeks of conference play, just one stands alone among the ranks undefeated…and it’s not who you might have thought following out-of-conference play. Here’s the week that was in MAC basketball and a look ahead to the weekend.
Miami 79, Ohio 67: The Bobcats lead by eight at the half but it all fell apart, as they started the second half 0 for 10 and Miami went on a 17-0 run. Again Ohio was controlled at the three spot, with Miami’s Antonio Ballard having his best game of the season, recording a double-double.
Northern Illinois 77, Eastern Michigan 69: Northern Illinois keeps its unblemished conference record behind Xavier Silas’ 25 points. Eastern struggled from the floor and hit just 4 of 22 from downtown.
Western Michigan 70, Central Michigan 61: Western shot nearly 20 percent better from the field than Central, which tells the story. The Broncos led the entire game.
Ball State 71, Toledo 43: There’s not much to say for Toledo. The young Rockets are struggling through the conference slate so far. Ball State hit 50 percent of its shots, and led by as many as 30.
Buffalo 78, Akron 65: A career-high 31 points from Rodney Pierce propelled Buffalo to victory. Jimmy Conyers continued his strong stretch, leading the Zips in points and rebounds. Buffalo’s offense was too much to handle for Akron with Pierce continuing his hot scoring.
Bowling Green 76, Kent State 70: The Falcons overcame a halftime deficit on the backs of Scott Thomas and Dee Brown, who combined for 33 of Bowling Green’s 48 second-half points. Kent State got within three with 33 seconds left but never could pull any closer.
Bowling Green 65, Ohio 57
Both teams must have been having déjà vu Wednesday night. On Saturday, Ohio led Miami by eight at half before seeing it slip away in the final twenty minutes. Bowling Green overcame a seven-point halftime deficit with a big scoring second half to defeat Kent State.
The story was eerily similar in this contest. Ohio led by eight at halftime but Bowling Green outscored Ohio 44-28 in the second half to emerge victorious.
Three Falcons scored in double-digits, led by Joe Jakubowski and his 18 points. Ohio’s best player was Kenneth Van Kempen. Yes, you read that right. He scored 10 points and added five rebounds.
The problem for Bobcats fans is it is not a good sign when Van Kempen’s name is on top of multiple stat categories. They need more out of D.J. Cooper and Armon Bassett, who were a combined 6-22 from the field. On defense, it is becoming a prevailing trend that Ohio cannot stop opposing teams’ small forwards. This game it was Scott Thomas, who scored 16 points. Add him to the list of Singletary, Conyers and Ballard who have all taken advantage of the Bobcats at that position.
Bowling Green is now on a two-game win streak and getting back to its fundamentals of strong defense. They have come out slow in both of these wins but their strong second half performances show their experience and moxie. The defense is picking up, holding Kent State and Ohio to 36 and 37 percent field goal shooting, respectively. That zone defense holding down the opponent is Bowling Green’s key to success. It effectively stopped Ohio’s guards.
On the other hand, the Bobcats are in a big time funk. They are having issues at the end of these close games. In the final 3:58 of this loss, they just shutdown. 0 for 6 from the field and turnovers in that time cost Ohio its three-point lead and ultimately the game.
Akron 69, Miami 49
In one of the Wednesday East blowouts, Akron bounced back from its poor showing at Buffalo. Chris McKnight scored 18 and rebounded 13 in just twenty minutes and the Zips held Miami to 32% shooting from the field.
Kenny Hayes paced Miami with 15 points. Inside, Adam Fletcher recorded a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds). But Miami just could not find an offensive groove. It only converted two of its 16 three-point attempts. It also missed a bunch of layups at the hoop. The Redhawks also struggled on the boards. They were outrebounded 41-27.
Another positive for Akron was the performance of freshman Zeke Marshall. He scored 13 points and had 3 blocks. It was his highest scoring output and an efficient performance, hitting six of eight shots.
Akron looked like a totally different team at home here. They went from being controlled by Buffalo to handling Miami. Akron leads the conference right now in rebounding margin. I really think this is one of the most underrated statistics in college basketball. Last season, Buffalo, Bowling Green and Ball State were the top three seeds in the MAC Tournament. They were also the top three in rebounding margin. If you rebound well, you are going to be successful.
Miami is still unable to get off the schnide on the road. It is 0-9 on the road. If you cannot find a way to win away from home, your season will not go on too far into March.
Kent State 89, Buffalo 54
The big blowout of the night came in Buffalo, with Kent State knocking around the Bulls.
Kent State shut down Rodney Pierce (4 points). Offensively, six Golden Flashes scored in double-digits. Chris Singletary was the high scorer with 18 points.
It was a 10-point game at halftime but Buffalo did not cut into it quickly enough and then it just got out of hand.
This could have been a big statement game for Buffalo, going to 4-0 with a road win at a perennial MAC contender. Instead, they made the wrong kind of statement. Still, this loss is not a crippling one for Buffalo.
Kent State can have success with Singletary and Evans consistently in double-digits and one of the inside guys also putting up points.
Central Michigan 71, Eastern Michigan 53
The Chippewas’ starters took their toll on Eastern Michigan, scoring 68 of their 71 points, to get their third conference win.
Central’s only bench points came from Chris Kellerman, who scored three. Jordan Bitzer scored a game-high 28 points. Jalin Thomas had his best game of the season with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Robbie Harman scored 15.
On Eastern’s side, five scored in double-digits but they were the only Eagles scorers. The big difference: Eastern made 35.7% of their field goals compared to Central’s 51.2%.
Now 3-1 in the conference, Central is showing why they were the preseason pick to win the West. Marko Spica sat out with a knee injury, but Jalin Thomas filled the void adequately. Central is definitely a very capable scoring team with Harman and Bitzer. Add in some decent defense and Central will be tough.
Eastern came into conference play tied atop the MAC West. Now it sits at 1-3 and once again is struggling. This team is not devoid of talent. Brandon Bowdry and Carlos Medlock are two of the best in the west. You have to wonder if Charles Ramsey is getting everything he can out of this team. They’ve been plagued with bad luck before (Medlock’s injury last season) but now the excuses are gone.
Ball State 75, Western Michigan 68
Western Michigan got a good showing from its bench but it was not quite enough. Ball State’s Randy Davis scored 21 points in the win.
At the half, Ball State had doubled Western, up 36-18. But in the next period, David Kool heated up, scoring 18 of his 22 points. But Ball State dominated most of the game, up by as many as 21.
Jarrod Jones only scored six but Pierre Sneed scored 13 and Terrence Watson scored 12.
For Western, outside of Kool, the starters only scored five points. The bench of Martelle McLemore, Alex Wolf, and Flenard Whitfield added on a combined 41 points in the loss.
Northern Illinois 58, Toledo 54 Toledo almost got its first MAC win, giving a good effort at home but falling just short. Northern improves to 4-0, the only to remain undefeated in MAC play.
Northern Illinois is setting some impressive marks. Its six-game win streak is the longest since 1995-1996. It is the first time the Huskies have ever started conference play 4-0.
The Colorado transfer Xavier Silas is paying off big time for coach Ricardo Patton. Silas scored 19 points and has now been in double-digits in the last seven games. Toledo is seeing some good play from freshmen but they are continually showing their youth. This is exemplified by taking 23 three-point shots and only making five. The Rockets also lost the turnover battle.
Silas is really providing Northern with the fuel to get off to this hot start. His scoring is giving them a much-needed dimension. Along with Jake Anderson and Sean Kowal, Silas provides a good scoring threesome. Mike DiNunno is struggling though and you have to think that will eventually catch up to the Huskies, if he does not improve his play Toledo was within two points with eight seconds left, which is closer than they have been in any of its other MAC games. These close contests will be good experience for down the line this season and in the coming years.
East Beast of the Week:
Scott Thomas, Bowling Green
21.5 PPG, 6 RPG average this week, 17/18 FT
Thomas first put up 27 on the road against Kent, shooting 80% from the field and then followed with 16 against the Bobcats.
Best of the West:
Jordan Bitzer, Central Michigan
24 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG average this week, 40% 3 pt. shooting
Despite the loss to Western, Bitzer performed admirably and then did even better to propel the Chippewas to a Wednesday win.
Congratulations: Charlie Coles, now the MAC’s all-time wins leader with 195. Charlie is one of the MAC’s most fun characters and is always entertaining during and after the game, win or lose. He’s also a pretty darn good coach.
Wait, really?: In Eastern Michigan’s loss to Northern Illinois, Carlos Medlock achieved an interesting juxtaposition. He was a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line but 0-8 from three.
MAC Weekend Forecast
The squads play their last inter-division game for a while before going cross-division starting midweek.
Buffalo at Ohio- Rodney Pierce has a big bounce back game, returning to his 20-point ways in a Bulls win
Bowling Green at Miami- Miami is good at home, bad on the road. It takes on the Falcons at Millett Hall. Must mean a Miami win
Akron at Kent State- always a fun rivalry game, Akron comes to town and takes it this time
Toledo at Western Michigan- Toledo is not ready to win a road game, as Western will rebound big time at home
Ball State at Eastern Michigan- Ball State ’s defense holds the Eagles in check
Northern Illinois at Central Michigan- In what may be the weekend’s best game, Central Michigan pulls out a tight win, with Jordan Bitzer continuing his sharp shooting.
By Connor Kiesel