EAST UPDATE: Kent won its fifth in a row and 20th of the season Saturday night at Buffalo to maintain its one-game lead over Akron for the East championship. The Zips kept pace with an overtime win versus Ohio, which was the Bobcats' MAC-leading fifth OT game of the season. The top three slots in the East remained unchanged Saturday as Bowling Green edged Miami. Marshall's win versus Northern Illinois vaulted the Herd into a fourth-place tie with Ohio and set the stage for Monday night's showdown between the two teams in Huntington. Kent can clinch no worse than a tie for the East Division championship with wins this week versus Bowling Green and Akron.
WEST UPDATE: Ball State won its fourth in a row this week while Toledo won twice to stretch its streak to six wins. The stage is set for Wednesday's Ball State at Toledo encounter which could be for the top spot in the West. First, BSU must get by a tough Akron squad on Monday. A half-game separates the Cardinals and Rockets at the start of the week. Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois are a game and a half behind the Cardinals with four games remaining, including a regular season finale between the Eagles and Huskies on Feb. 26 in Ypsilanti.
WHO'S HOT: Toledo's six-game winning streak has set the pace during the final weeks of the regular season. Since the return of All-MAC forward Greg Stempin, the Rockets are 6-0 and have recovered from a 1-7 MAC record to a 7-7 mark. Kent's five-game win streak (its last loss was to Toledo) and Ball State's four wins in a row, have given both teams first place status in their respective divisions.
EVERY GAME COUNTS: Going into the final two weeks, every league game remaining involves at least one of the top four teams in each division.
WORKING OVERTIME: Ohio's two overtime games this week, a win at home over Central Michigan and a road loss at Akron, bring to 17 the total number of OT games this year involving a MAC team. Ohio has played in a league-high five extra contests. The NCAA record for most OT games in a season is eight by three different teams, most recently Valparaiso in 1993.
RECORDS WATCH: Northern Illinois' T.J. Lux became the school's career scoring leader by adding 18 points to his total versus Ohio. Lux added 20 more in a 69-59 win versus Miami and ended this week with a new Huskies' standard of 1,891 points. Lux needs just 14 more rebounds to become NIU's all-time leader for that category. Bowling Green's Anthony Stacey needs just 13 points to become the Falcons' career leader. Stacey currently sits behind Howard Komives (1,834 from 1962-64).
BG STANDS ALONE: Bowling Green remains as the only MAC team with an unblemished home record. The Falcons are 10-0 overall and 7-0 in MAC play at Anderson Arena, and have won 14 in a row at home. The Falcons go for their 15th straight home win against MAC East Division leader Kent on Wednesday night. The Golden Flashes have the league's best road record at 7-3 overall and 5-2 in league play.
CHAIR OF THE BOARDS....AND MORE: Ohio's Shaun Stonerook has a handle on defending his MAC rebounding crown, which he won last year with 9.1 per game. Ranked second nationally in the latest statistical report, Stonerook leads the league with 12.1 rebounds a game. In addition to his rebounding skills, Stonerook ranks among MAC leaders in scoring (9th, 16.2 ppg), assists (7th at 4.00 apg), free throw pct. (11th at 73.1%) and steals (10th at 1.77 spg). Stonerook's 18 double-doubles also leads the nation.
STEMPIN HITS 1,000: All-MAC forward Greg Stempin reached the 1,000-point plateau this week with his 15 points at Eastern Michigan and now has 1,008 career points. Since the junior's return from an injury, Toledo has won six in a row. The Rockets are 7-2 in MAC games with Stempin in the lineup and 0-5 without him.
CARD STAT: Despite having three of the MAC's top 13 rebounding leaders, Ball State is ninth in the league in rebounding margin (-1.0). Freshman Theron Smith is sixth (7.8), Josh Murray is 10th (6.9) and Lonnie Jones is 13th (6.5). Smith, a freshman, is second on the squad in scoring with a 13.2 average and has scored in double figures in 18-of-22 games this year.
KING OF THE BLOCKS: As a freshman last year, Ball State's Lonnie Jones led the MAC with 2.0 blocked shots per game. This year Jones has continued his rejections at a pace of 2.41 per game, second in the MAC. Buffalo's Mike McKie leads the league with 2.65 blocked shots per contest. Jones had a league single-game high of seven blocks in BSU's 80-60 win versus Western Michigan.
PICKING UP THE PACE: BSU's Patrick Jackson averaged only 4.9 points per game last year and 6.4 ppg this year until four games ago. Since then he has produced 15.8 ppg while the Cardinals are 4-0.
STARTLING THE "EXPERTS": Picked to finish in sixth place in the six-team MAC West Division in a preseason poll, Eastern Michigan is enjoying a successful run to date. The Eagles are tied for third place in the West with a 6-8 mark and are 12-10 overall. Last year EMU, having lost all five of its starters from the previous campaign, was 5-20 overall and 5-13 in MAC play. EMU leads the MAC in field goal pct. defense at 40.7%.
A SILVER LINING: Central Michigan has won only two MAC games this year, but should begin next year with two of the most talented young players in the MAC. Last year's Freshman of the Year, the Chippewas Mike Manciel, has been sidelined all year. Manciel's injury has allowed sophomore David Webber to step up his play and rank among the MAC's scoring leaders. Webber ranks fifth in the MAC with 18 points a game, which is double from his 9.0 ppg last season. Webber has two of the league's top nine game-high point productions with 33 versus Ohio and 29 against Detroit. Webber's 52 three-point goals this season is the seventh most in school history.
Y2K EAGLES YEAR? In two of the last three years that Presidential elections were held, Eastern Michigan University won the MAC's post season tournament. The Eagles took the crowns in 1996 and 1988, while Miami won the 1992 tournament. EMU is in third place in the West Division, just a game and a half behind Ball State.
GOOD COMPANY: Should Marshall's Tamar Slay end the season as he is now as the MAC's leader in scoring and three-point field goals, he will join Eastern Michigan's Earl Boykins (1998) and Ohio's Dave Jamerson (1990) as the only other players in MAC history to lead the league in both categories in the same season. Slay could also become the first sophomore since Bonzi Wells of Ball State in 1996 to lead the MAC in scoring.
LEADER BOARD: As always, there are a couple of surprises looking at MAC leaders in individual categories with just two weeks left in the season. Ohio's Dustin Ford leads the league in assist-turnover ratio at 3.11 after coming into the season with a career 1.08 average. Buffalo's Mike McKie is averaging 2.65 blocked shots per game in his first year in the league. Marshall's Tamar Slay, after posting 6.0 ppg last year, is at a MAC best 20.6 ppg, and has upped his 3-point goals per game from 0.8 to 3.35. BG's Len Matela paces the league in field goal percentage at 64.2% after shooting 54.0% last season.
HOT SHOT: In streaking to a 13-0 lead and eventually a halftime margin of 38-30, Bowling Green shot 71.4% (15-of-21) in the first half in its 66-60 win at Miami. BG leads the MAC in field goal accuracy at 49.8%.
WHORTON ON TARGET: Kent center John Whorton had an almost perfect week as his 90.0% field goal shooting (18-of-20) helped the Golden Flashes to three wins, boosting their season win total to 20. Whorton was 4-for-4 from the field against Marshall, 6-of-6 versus Eastern Michigan and 8-of-10 at Buffalo.
THREE NEARING 1,000: Miami's Anthony Taylor needs 27 points to become the 27th player in school history to reach 1,000, Bowling Green's Dave Esterkamp is eight points shy of 1,000, and Marshall's Travis Young will reach that same standard with 82 more points.
GOT TICKETS?: Kent's regular-season finale against arch-rival Akron (Sat., Feb. 19) is a sellout at the Golden Flashes' 6,327-seat M.A.C. Center. The teams each have won 53 games in the series, which dates back to 1915. The Zips defeated the Golden Flashes earlier this year, 69-64.
HOT FLASHES: With wins in their last five games, the Kent Golden Flashes are close to clinching the first regular season MAC title in school history. Kent can secure at least a tie for the league title with wins this week against challengers Bowling Green (Wednesday) and Akron (Saturday). Kent also reached the 20-win plateau for the second straight year and its 43 wins the last two years are the most in school history in back-to-back seasons.
THREE POINTS: Ohio has lost three league games in overtime and sports an 8-6 MAC record going into Monday's game at Marshall. With three more points, the Bobcats would be 11-3 and battling for the top spot in the East Division.
MAC NOTES: With its win over Northern Illinois on Saturday, Marshall has equaled its win total of 16 from last year ... Bowling Green also matched its previous year's win total of 18 with its triumph Saturday at Miami ... Ball State is one win away from its 16th of the season, which is the same number won last year ... two MAC teams have surpassed last year's win total, Eastern Michigan has 12 victories after six last year, and Northern Illinois, also at 12 wins, has doubled its win total from 1999 ... Ohio point guard Dustin Ford has one or no turnovers in 19 of 26 games ... Miami point guard Rob Mestas is averaging 40.0 minutes per game in 22 contests, due to Miami's five extended periods in its three overtime games this year ... Marshall's Cornelius Jackson is 30 assists shy of becoming the second Thundering Herd guard to ever record 200 assists in a season ... Akron's George Phillips netted two free throws with 6.4 seconds left in overtime to boost the Zips to an 81-79 win over Ohio ... Phillips and his Zip teammates lead the MAC and rank third in the nation in free throw accuracy at 77.6% ... since being inserted in Central Michigan's starting lineup six games ago, freshman forward Willie Wallace is averaging 9.7 ppg ... for the first time since 1988-89, Miami has lost four home games ... Marshall's Derrick Wright has quietly crept into third place all-time on the Herd's blocked shot chart with 125 ... Toledo's six-game MAC winning streak ties Akron for the longest in the league this year ... NIU center T.J. Lux has 56 career double-doubles ... the East Division's top five teams have combined for a 51-5 home court record this year (Kent, Akron, Bowling Green