Twelve of the 13 MAC teams are in action tonight as the league's 2001 season
heats up. Preseason MAC favorite Marshall hosts Western Michigan, defending league
champion Bowling Green is at Northern Illinois, defending West Division
co-champions Ball State (hosting Ohio) and Toledo (hosting Miami) begin defense
of their titles, Akron is at Buffalo and Eastern Michigan is at Kent State.
Central Michigan is idle but opens its MAC schedule Saturday at Bowling Green.
Akron (3-6, 0-0 MAC East):
Andy Hipsher (6-8, G-F), team captain and a member of the All-MAC Freshman team last year, injured his back and has missed the last three games. It is not known when he will return and he may be out for the season. Hipsher's averages include 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. The Zips did receive help at guard with transfers Rashon Brown (Western Kentucky) and Andre Sims (Kent State) becoming eligible at semester. In three games, Brown is averaging 16.3 points and 4.7 assists and Sims 8.0 points. The Zips also lost Marco Morgan (6-9, F, 3.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg) on Dec. 23 who was dismissed form the team for not meeting academic standards. On the plus side, Nate Schindewolf is knocking down the threes and leads the league in long range accuracy at 52.5% (21-of-40)
Bowling Green (4-5, 0-0 MAC East):
The Falcons open defense of their league championship Wednesday night at Northern Illinois. BG is 0-4 at away sites and 0-1 at neutral sites this season, but was 5-4 in MAC road games last year. The Falcons lead the MAC in field goal percentage (51.0%), three-point field goal percentage (43.1%), assists per game (16.0) and scoring offense (84.6). Junior center Len Matela leads the league in field goal percentage at 57.9% (55-of-95). BG ballhandlers also pace the league as senior guard Trent Jackson has a MAC best 2.3 steals per game and Brandon Pardon tops the assists chart with 7.7 a contest. Pardon has played 324 out of a possible 340 minutes this year. The Falcons' contest at NIU will be their first since dropping an 85-69 contest to No. 1 ranked Michigan State on Dec. 27. The Falcons played the game before an audience of 22,076, the largest crowd to ever witness a BG game. The previous best was 20,875 at Kentucky in 1988. BG's balanced squad features seven players averaging at least 9.2 ppg and eight players who have started at least one game.
Buffalo (2-6, 0-1 MAC East):
The Bulls took MAC preseason favorite Marshall to OT before dropping an 85-75 decision on Dec. 30 in both teams' league opener. UB scorched the nets for 12 three-point goals, including seven by Damien Foster, who scored 24 points. The 12 threes were the third-best single game total in school history and Foster's seven three-pointers in the game places him fourth all-time in school records. Buffalo has lost four games by a total of 19 points and two games in overtime. Robert Brown was named to the all-tournament team at the South Florida Tournament for his 31 points and 13 rebounds in two games. The Bulls finished third at the December tournament with a win over Alcorn State and a loss to Eastern Illinois. Following Wednesday's home game with Akron, the Bulls will play five of their next six games on the road.
Kent State (7-4, 0-0 MAC East):
Demetric Shaw served notice with a career-high 18 points in the Golden Flashes' 69-68 loss to Nebraska in the semi-finals of the San Juan Shootout. Shaw connected on 7-of-10 from the field and followed with a 5-of-9 outing and 16 points in an 81-75 win over VCU. The Golden Flashes finished their non-league schedule with a 71-60 loss to Xavier in the Rock 'N Roll Shootout at Gund Arena on Dec. 30. Despite holding the Musketeers to 39.1% from the field, KSU shot only 34.9%. The Golden Flashes rank 12th in the league in field goal percentage at 41.3%, well off last year's 46.5% clip that ranked third in the league.
Marshall (7-1, 1-0 MAC East):
Last year, Marshall enjoyed its MAC opening double overtime game at Western Michigan so much, a 127-126 Herd win, that they decided to play an extended period in this year's league lid lifter. With Buffalo in the Henderson Center, the Bulls took the preseason MAC favorite to OT before dropping an 85-75 decision. Marshall was led by Tamar Slay's 28 points, but back-to-back three-pointers in OT by Joda Burgess did the most damage to Buffalo, giving MU a 76-70 lead. Burgess scored 10 of his 16 points in overtime. Burgess was in the starting lineup in place of the injured Travis Young (right foot). Young's 2.0 steals per game is the third best production in the MAC and his 14.5 points per game is 17th. Fellow guard Cornelius Jackson leads the conference in assist-turnover ratio at 2.6 (52 assists, 20 turnovers). The Herd completed a perfect record of 5-0 in December and has won six games in a row. The lone blemish on Marshall's record came Nov. 21 at Cincinnati, 79-75.
Miami (4-7, 0-0 MAC East):
The RedHawks have dropped three in a row since a Dec. 9 win at No. 10 Notre Dame. Most recently Miami was victimized at home by UNC-Wilmington, 59-44. The RedHawks have not broken the 50-point barrier their last three games and are averaging just 55.7 points per game, lowest in the MAC. By contrast, Miami's scoring defense of allowing 57.9 points per game is the best in the MAC, the team's +1.91 turnover margin is fourth in the league and the team's 11.3 turnovers per game is tied for the lowest in the league with Kent State. Nevertheless, Miami's 55.7 ppg ranks 315th out of 318 NCAA Division I teams. The RedHawks open MAC play at Toledo and sport a 41-12 record in league opening games, but has lost two of its last three MAC openers. Head coach Charlie Coles (173) needs just one win to tie Eastern Michigan's Ben Braun for sixth place on the league's all-time winningest coaches list.
Ohio (5-5, 0-1 MAC East):
The Bobcats have been streaky this year - two wins to open the season, followed by four straight losses and then three consecutive wins before a 78-76 overtime loss to Pepperdine. Ohio rallied from a 16-point deficit on the road for a 75-71 win at Arizona State in the first round of the ASU Holiday Classic. Anthony Jones and Brandon Hunter were both named to the all-tournament team, with Jones' 30 points pacing the win over the Sun Devils. Hunter's five double-doubles this season are the most in the MAC. Ohio dropped a 78-76 overtime decision to Pepperdine in the championship game. Ohio has played just two home games to date, but after its MAC opener at Ball State (Wed.), the Bobcats play four of five at the Convo.
Ball State (5-4, 0-0 MAC West):
Ball State's Cedric Moodie had missed eight games due to injury, but returned in fine form with a career-high 29 points in the 83-67 win over IUPU Fort Wayne on Dec. 30. Moodie, a 6-1 guard who averaged 10.2 ppg last year, also snagged a career-best nine rebounds. Theron Smith has five double-doubles and Josh Murray has four. Smith's most recent double-double came with 16 points and 14 rebounds versus IUPU-FW. The 2000 MAC Freshman of the Year, Smith's 17.8 ppg leads BSU and ranks fourth in the league. Smith also ranks sixth in field goal percentage (49.2%) and third in rebounding (10.0). Ball State has won three of its last four games. Last year the Cardinals began MAC play with overtime games in three of their first four games, and were 3-6 in MAC play before finishing with wins in eight of the last nine games for an 11-7 MAC West record.
Central Michigan (6-3, 0-0 MAC West):
The Chippewas have not played since Dec. 21 in a 92-62 triumph over Tri-State, which translates into a layoff of 16 days between games. CMU jumps right into the thick of it when action resumes Saturday as the Chippewas travel to defending MAC champion Bowling Green. CMU's six wins equal the total from last year, and the 6-3 pre-MAC mark is a reversal of last year's 3-6 pre-league slate. This year, the Chippewas head into MAC play with a winning record for the first time since the 1991-92 season. In addition, the 66.7% non-conference winning percentage is the best since the 1980-81 campaign. Like last year, CMU starts MAC play with three of its first four games on the road, and five of the first seven are away. Included is a stretch of four games in eight days. Junior guard David Webber needs 62 points to reach 1,000 for his career. Webber's 17.2 ppg is fifth best in the MAC and teammate Chad Pleiness leads all MAC players with a 92.3% free throw rate (24-of-26). CMU will unveil to the league 7-foot freshman Chris Kaman, who is averaging 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per game.
Eastern Michigan (2-7, 0-0 MAC West):
Following the Eagles' MAC opener at Kent State, they will play three consecutive home games (Ball State, Toledo, Marshall) and five of the next six at home. Tyson Radney leads the MAC in rebounding (11.2) and ranks seventh in the nation. Freshman guard Ricky Cottrill is warming up. After averaging 4.7 ppg the first three games of the season, Cottrill has averaged 14.0 ppg the last six contests with three of those resulting in 20 points. C.J. Grantham, a member of the All-MAC Freshman team last year, has dished out 21 assists the last two games, 11 in the win over Grambling and 10 in the loss at Michigan. Guard Melvin Hicks, who played just 28 minutes last year as a freshman, has seen 271 minutes thus far and is leading the team in scoring at 12.0 ppg. Junior guard-forward Dante Darling, who had started the first seven games, has been suspended from the team for the remainder of the season for "conduct detrimental to the team" according to head coach Jim Boone.
Northern Illinois (1-6, 0-0 MAC West):
Northern Illinois' assistant Andy Greer was named interim head coach with the resignation of Brian Hammel on Dec. 8. Hammel compiled a 117-138 record in 10 years at NIU. In Hammel's last game, the Huskies drilled Rockford 121-88. Leon Rodgers established a MAC record in that game by hitting on 13-of-13 field goals. Rodgers has posted three-straight 20-point games in his last three outings including a career-high 27 points against Rockford and 23 points against DePaul. Even though Rodgers has put up 20 or more in the last three games, sophomore guard Sean Ezell holds the current streak for consecutive double-figures games, having scored 10 or more in his last four contests. The scoring spurt has upped Ezell's average to 9.6 ppg, the third highest on the squad and has earned him a spot in the starting lineup. Ezell's presence in the starting five gave the Huskies their sixth different starting five this year. Northern Illinois has not won a MAC opener since the 1983-84 season when it defeated CMU 74-67 in overtime. The Huskies' conference opening game with Bowling Green will be just NIU's fifth conference opener at home in 15 seasons in the MAC. NIU holds a 2-2 record in the previous four openers at Chick Evans Field House. Overall NIU is 3-11 in MAC openers.
Toledo (8-3, 0-0 MAC West):
Toledo met with great success at the seventh annual Rock 'N Roll Shootout held at Cleveland's Gund Arena on Dec. 30. In the opening game of the doubleheader (Kent State-Xavier), the Rockets built an 18-point lead against top 20 ranked Cincinnati before scoring with 20 seconds left for a 69-66 win. Greg Stempin scored a game-high 21 points, including the game winner to put UT ahead 67-66 before freshman Terry Reynolds nailed two free throws to ice the win. Stempin also had a last-second blocked shot. The Rockets are 5-0 in games on neutral courts this year with those wins coming against Auburn, Cincinnati, Creighton, Samford and Southeast Missouri State. Stempin ranks among the MAC leaders in scoring (2nd, 18.2), rebounding (8th, 7.4) and field goal percentage (5th, 50.0%). Reynolds, who had five steals and five assist versus the Bearcats, is 11th in the MAC in scoring (15.4), fourth in assists (5.18 per game), sixth in steals (1.73 per game) and 11th in three-point field goals (1.82 per game). The Rockets are also getting great play out of 6-4 forward Robierre Cullars. Cullars scored 12 points and dished out six assists in the win over Cincinnati. On the year, Cullars is posting 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.
Western Michigan (1-9, 1-0 MAC West):
Western Michigan has just one win this year, but the Broncos won when it counted most. WMU's 76-65 triumph over Ohio on Dec. 16 came in the only MAC game played to date. K.C. Cavette came off the bench to pop in 16 points versus the Bobcats. Bobby Collum, a transfer from Kankakee JC in his first year with the program, nailed 3-of-4 three-point attempts and ranks fourth in the league in three-point percentage at 46.2% (18-of-39). WMU takes a two-game losing streak into its MAC encounter at Marshall. Both teams are 1-0 in league play and stand atop their respective divisions. Marshall won last year's meeting in Kalamazoo, 127-126 in double overtime.