Mid-American Conference Tournament - Third Round Recap
(4) Kent State 76 (8) Western Michigan 72
The Kent State Golden Flashes might have beaten the Western Michigan Broncos by only four points on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, but the fourth seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament won this game far more comfortably than the final numbers might suggest. Kent State gained a nine-point lead with 1:15 left and reached the finish line without too much difficulty, ending Western Michigan's season in what was officially labeled the "quarterfinal" round of the MAC Tournament. However, since there were only two games in this round, it seems much more apt to label this the "third round" of the tournament. At any rate, Kent State now moves to the semifinals to face the top-seeded Akron Zips, the regular-season champion of the MAC.
Kent State got a break in this round. It faced the No. 8 seed instead of the fifth-seeded club from Eastern Michigan. When No. 12 seed Northern Illinois beat EMU in the first round, Western - in the eighth slot - received a favorable second-round draw. The Broncos cashed in that chip and made the third round, but Kent State played a more manageable opponent. Kent State hit 52 percent of its shots and committed only nine turnovers. That's definitely a recipe for success on most days, and it was enough to send Western Michigan packing. Kent State lost at home to Akron just one week ago, so the Golden Flashes will definitely relish the chance to get a second crack at the Zips. The fact that the game is on a neutral court in Cleveland should be to KSU's advantage.
Much as Kent State received a break when Eastern Michigan tumbled out of the MAC Tournament a few rounds earlier than expected, the third-seeded Ohio Bobcats also received a stroke of good fortune when sixth-seeded Bowling Green got ambushed by 11th-seeded Central Michigan in the first round of the MAC Tournament. As a result, Ohio played the Toledo Rockets from the MAC West Division instead of East Division rival Bowling Green in the third round on Thursday. The Bobcats took full advantage, grounding the Rockets with considerable ease. Ohio led by double figures late in the game and jogged to the finish line.
Ohio didn't shoot well - it hit only 38 percent of its shots - but the Bobcats snapped down 14 offensive rebounds compared to just five for Toledo. Ohio also committed only 11 turnovers while Toledo coughed up 16 of them. Ohio was able to create many more possessions and convert on enough of them to make an appreciable difference. Guard B.J. Cooper was sensational for the victorious Bobcats, scoring 18 points while handing out five assists and snagging five rebounds. He also went 9-of-11 at the free throw line to make sure his team didn't lose ground in the second half. Toledo's season is over, but Ohio will now face second-seeded Buffalo in the semifinals. Ohio's win in the late game on Thursday ensured that all of the top four seeds will play in the semifinals (the top two seeds received byes into the semifinals).