MAC men's basketball gets into full swing as 13 teams keep an eye on the calendar. It's just 59 days until the MAC Tournament convenes in Cleveland. Kent State in the East and Toledo in the West have the early grip on first place in their respective divisions.
MAC East Division Notes
Akron (4-7, 1-1 MAC East):
The Zips started Saturday's game at Kent State by allowing the Golden Flashes to bolt to an 8-0 lead, but came back strong to grab a 41-33 halftime advantage, shooting 60.9% (14-of-23) from the field. A stifling KSU defense held UA to 30.0% (6-of-20) from the field in the second half for a 73-61 win. David Falknor came off the bench for a Zip-high 15 points, connecting on 3-of-4 from three-point range. Falknor's team-high scoring was his first in 64 career games. Following Tuesday's game at home versus Western Michigan, the Zips proceed to play three of their next four games on the road. Senior forward Nate Schindewolf's accurate shooting has him leading the MAC in three-point accuracy at 51.1% (23-of-45) and ranking fifth in free throw shooting at 84.0% (42-of-50). Schindewolf came into his senior at 32.3% (20-of-62) from three-point range and 75.0% (39-of-52) from the line. Schindewolf and Andy Hipsher were selected as co-captains for the season, but Hipsher was redshirted last week due to a back injury. Hipsher was averaging 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 3.8 assists per game through six games prior to his injury. Guards Andre Sims (8.0 ppg, 3.0 apg) and Rashon Brown (14.2 ppg, 4.4 apg) joined the squad at semester and have made a positive impact. Sims transferred from Kent State and Brown from Western Kentucky.
Bowling Green (5-6, 1-1 MAC East):
The Falcons had their 20-game home winning streak snapped in Saturday's 92-85 loss to Central Michigan. The Falcons had the fifth active longest home winning streak among Division I teams. Coupled with a 78-67 win at Northern Illinois, BG's Keith McLeod averaged 23.5 ppg, scorching the Huskies for 22 and the Chippewas for 25. McLeod dropped in 14 consecutive free throws at NIU and dished out six assists. McLeod was 19-of-22 (86.4%) from the line in the two games to raise his season average to 76.9%, 11th best in the MAC. BG ranks second in the league in free throw accuracy (75.9%) and in addition to McLeod, have Brandon Pardon (10th, 78.0%), Len Matela (12th 76.3%) and Trent Jackson (13th, 75.6%) among league leaders. Matela leads the MAC in field goal shooting at 55.8% (58-of-104) and Pardon tops the assists chart at 7.45 per game, and 82 total. The Falcons have the league's best shooting team at 50.3% and highest rated three-point rate at 41.2%. Following Wednesday's game with Buffalo, BG takes to the road for three of its next four games (at Toledo, Akron, Kent State; home versus Ball State).
Buffalo (2-8, 0-3 MAC East):
The Bulls have lost three overtime games this year and four others by a combined 14 points. UB's 64-49 loss at Northern Illinois was its 11th consecutive MAC loss. Seven of the next nine games for the Bulls are on the road. The 13 field goals in the loss to the Huskies is the lowest since a 1996 loss to Syracuse (13 FG). The Bulls do have the league's second best three-point shooting percentage at 38.9% (79-of-203), which is a marked improvement over last year's 31.2% (last in the MAC). The Bulls also finished last in the MAC last year in rebounding margin (-6.9) but are listed fifth thus far in 2001 (+0.0). Newcomer Robert Brown (Schoolcraft (Mich.) JC), leads the team in scoring (16.0) and Jason Robinson (Seward (Kan.) CC) has a team-best 6.1 rebounds per game. Last year's final MAC stats had no UB player in the top 20 in scoring, but this year three Bulls are on the list - Brown (t-7th, 16.0), Robinson (12th, 15.1) and Damien Foster (14.3). No other MAC team has three players ranked in the top 20 in scoring.
Kent State (9-4, 2-0 MAC East):
The Golden Flashes are the only team in the East without a conference loss following Saturday's 73-61 triumph over arch rival Akron in a game televised on ESPN2. Down 41-33 at the half, KSU held the Zips to a cool 30.0% (6-of-20) from the field in the second half. Rashaun Warren (6-6, F/C) grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the second half and eight for the game, way above his average of 4.3 rebounds per game. KSU dominated the boards, 37-25, and battled for 21 offensive caroms. Kyrem Massey shot 9-of-16 from the field (56.3%) while the rest of the Flashes were just 17-of-47 (36.1%). In their MAC opening win at Eastern Michigan, guard Demetric Shaw keyed the 70-57 Flashes' win with a career-high 17 rebounds while adding 14 points. The 6-foot, 3-inch Shaw leads the team in rebounds with 5.9 per game and is averaging 10.2 points a contest. Despite a 41.0% shooting rate from the field (12th in the MAC), KSU is winning with tough defense and superior ball handling. KSU leads the MAC in turnover margin at +6.69 and in assist turnover ratio at 1.10.
Marshall (8-2, 2-1 MAC East):
Marshall has been without the services of shooting guard Travis Young (injured right foot) the last three games but has went 2-1 during that time. The loss came in a 71-54 decision at Miami and snapped the Herd's seven-game winning streak, the longest by a MAC team this season. Young (14.5 ppg) is listed as day-to-day per his return. Marshall leads the MAC in scoring margin at +9.9 but is at a -1.7 margin without Young in the lineup. J.R. VanHoose recorded his 24th and 25th career double-doubles this week with 18 points and 12 rebounds versus Western Michigan and 13 points and 10 rebounds at Miami. VanHoose, who earlier this year became the 40th player in school history to record 1,000 points, is second in the MAC in field goal percentage (55.1%) and rebounding (10.6) and fifth in scoring (16.8). Despite being held to 15 points at Miami, Tamar Slay continues to lead the league in scoring at 19.2 ppg. Slay also ranks among league pace setters in field goal percentage (11th, 42.0%), rebounding (t-14th, 5.9) and three-point field goals (t-9th, 2.0 per game). Cornelius Jackson has a MAC best 2.48 assist-turnover margin (62 assists, 25 turnovers). Marshall is 7-0 at home this year. Following Tuesday's game at Charleston against West Virginia, the Herd returns to action with two of its next three games at home, then three straight on the road. Senior Joda Burgess became the school's second leading all-time three-point shooter, pushing his total to 191, just 50 shy of the school mark held by Keith Veney. Marshall leads the MAC in field goal defense, allowing just 38.0% by opponents, that after a MAC ninth-best 43.8% rate last season.
Miami (5-8, 1-1 MAC East):
The RedHawks snapped a four-game losing streak with a convincing 71-54 win over preseason MAC favorite Marshall Saturday at Millett Hall, thus avoiding an 0-2 conference start for the first time in 14 years. Freshman Julius Johnson turned in his best performance of his young career against the Herd by equalling his career-highs in points (12) and rebounds (5). Johnson also established personal bests in assists (4) and steals (3). Junior forward Alex Shorts scored a game-high 17 points against Marshall, that coming off a game-high 18 points against defending MAC West co-champion Toledo. Shorts shot 60.0% (15-of-25) from the field in the two games. The 71 points versus Marshall was Miami's second highest output this year for a team averaging 57.4 ppg. The 54 points was also Marshall's lowest total since a 77-53 loss at Ohio last year, a period of 20 games. The Herd is posting nearly 79 points a game, second in the MAC to BG's 84. Miami leads the league in scoring defense, allowing 59.0 ppg. The RedHawks have led the MAC in that category five of the last six years.
Ohio (6-5, 1-1 MAC East):
The Bobcats were idle Saturday before hosting MAC East leader Kent State on Monday. Ohio's most recent encounter was a solid 68-58 win at defending West co-champion Ball State on Jan. 3. Anthony Jones led the Bobcats to that win with a team-high 17 points, but the hot shooting of Brandon Hunter, 8-of-11 from the field for 72.7%, also sparked the victory. The Ohio defense held last year's MAC Freshman of the Year, Theron Smith to no points (0-4 FGA, 0-2 FTA, 29 minutes) for the first time in his career (42 games). The Bobcats have won four of their last five games, only an overtime loss to Pepperdine marring the record. A win against KSU would tie Ohio with the Golden Flashes and Marshall at 2-1 for the MAC East lead. Monday's contest marks a stretch of four home games in five dates for Ohio. The Ball State game marked Ohio's ninth road game in the last 10 outings. Patrick Flomo leads the MAC in blocked shots with 35 overall and 3.2 per game. Flomo's 35 rejects are just two shy of his last year's total. Ohio's 4.8 blocks per game is a MAC high.
MAC West Division Notes
Ball State (6-5, 1-1 MAC West):
The Cardinals rebounded from a MAC opening 68-58 loss to Ohio with a 69-66 triumph at Eastern Michigan. After no points in 29 minutes in the loss to Ohio, 2000 MAC Freshman of the Year Theron Smith came back to post a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds at EMU. Smith connected on 10-of-16 (62.5%) from the field and also had three steals to tie a career high. Smith, with six double-doubles this season, paces BSU in both scoring (16.6) and rebounding (9.9), ranking sixth and third, respectively, in those categories among all MAC players. BSU has a six-day break before hosting Western Michigan Saturday, then plays four games in eight days. The Cardinals lead the MAC in rebounding margin at +5.4 and in crashing the offensive boards with 15.3 per game. Josh Murray (6-7), Smith (6-8) and Lonnie Jones (6-11) rank first (3.55), second (3.35) and fourth (2.91) respectively in the MAC in offensive rebounds. BSU has won three of its last four games heading into a two-game homestand against West foes Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
Central Michigan (7-3, 1-0 MAC West):
The Chippewas stunned defending MAC champion Bowling Green with a 92-85 win at Anderson Arena, snapping the Falcons' 20-game home winning streak, the fifth longest current in the nation. MAC West Player of the Week David Webber scored 21 points to lead five CMU players in double figures. Webber needs 41 points to reach 1,000 for his career and his averages of 17.6 ppg and 5.1 rpg lead the team. CMU shot 55.8% (29-of-52) at BG and won despite having more turnovers (19 to 14) than the Falcons. Senior Luke Johnson started in the place of Mike Manciel (slowed by an ankle injury) and in 18 minutes scored a career-high 12 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field. Johnson had scored just 17 points total in the Chippewas' previous nine games. Manciel did play 10 minutes at BG, scoring two points and being credited with two rebounds. Jon Borovich shot 4-of-4 from the floor, increasing his season numbers to 72.2% (13-of-18) from two-point range and 71.4% (5-of-7) from three-point range, as well as 80.0% (16-of-20) from the line. CMU's 48.6% field goal rate is second in the MAC and when the Chippewas reach 45.0% or higher they have a 5-0 record. The seven wins this year already surpasses last year's win total of six. Since the 1992-93 season, CMU has reached 10 wins only once, that in 1998-99 in Jay Smith's second season as head coach. CMU last finished at .500 in 1990-91 (14-14) and above .500 in 1987-88 (19-13).
Eastern Michigan (2-9, 0-2 MAC West):
Last year the Eagles featured C.J. Grantham on the league's all-Freshman team. A guard, Grantham averaged 8.7 points and dished out 99 assists. This year Grantham is averaging 11.2 points per game and 5.0 assists a contest, and is joined by another Eagle freshman pushing for honors in Ricky Cottrill. A 6-3 playmaker from Poca, W.Va., Cottrill has emerged to pace EMU in scoring at 12.3 ppg, including a career-high 23 in Saturday's 69-66 loss to Ball State. Cottrill sank 6-of-9 three-point attempts versus the Cardinals and is averaging 15.1 ppg in the last eight outings after breaking in with 4.7 ppg his first three games. Cottrill has played 78 minutes in the Eagles' first two MAC games and ranks third in the league in free throw percentage at 86.5% (32-of-37). Also putting up big numbers for head coach Jim Boone is 6-7 Tyson Radney, who leads the league in rebounding with 11.1 per game. Radney averaged just 2.9 rebounds in 52 career games prior to this season. Radney snagged 21 rebounds in the games last week versus BSU and Kent State. EMU's three-point loss to BSU was the team's third this year by three or less points.
Northern Illinois (2-9, 1-1 MAC West):
Interim head coach Andy Greer earned his first career win and first MAC win in a 64-49 triumph over Buffalo Saturday. Mike Brown drilled 8-of-11 (72.7%) from the field and 5-of-6 (83.3%) from three-point range for a game-high 21 points. Brown's 148 career three-point goals are second in school history. NIU shot 51.0% (25-of-49) from the field in handing the Bulls their 11th consecutive league defeat. This makes the third consecutive season that NIU's first MAC win of the year came at the expense of Buffalo. Leon Rodgers shot 60.0% (15-of-25) for the week in scoring 18 points versus Bowling Green and 14 against UB. Rodgers' 17.7 ppg ranks him third among all MAC players and he is 10th in rebounding at 6.6 per game. Rodgers' recent field goal performance bumped him into third place in the MAC in percentage at 51.4% (76-of-148). NIU's next two games are on the road at East leading Kent State (Wednesday) and at defending West co-champion Ball State (Monday). NIU is shooting well from the field, at 46.1% ranking fifth in the MAC. At the line, however, the Huskies rank 12th in free throw accuracy at 60.9%.
Toledo (10-3, 2-0 MAC West):
Toledo became the first MAC team to reach 10 wins this season with conference opening victories over Miami, 76-62, and Western Michigan, 89-72. Greg Stempin knocked down a career-high five three-pointers versus Miami and continued his strong play with a season-high 15 rebounds versus WMU. Stempin's 18.3 ppg is second in the league, and he ranks fourth in field goal shooting at 50.6% (89-of-176) and eighth in rebounding at 7.5 per game. Stempin has made nine of his last 14 three point attempts (64.3%). The wins extended UT's MAC winning streak to 12, dating back to last year. Wednesday's opponent, Eastern Michigan, was the last MAC team to beat the Rockets in the regular season, hanging a 71-68 loss on UT on Jan. 22, 2000. The Rockets have also won six straight MAC road games, five shy of the school record. Rory Jones and Milo Kirsh had quality time off the bench at WMU. Jones set career-highs with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and 26 minutes. Kirsh was 9-of-11 from the line for a season-high 11 points. Freshman Terry Reynolds scored 35 total points in his first two MAC games. Reynolds is 10th in the league in scoring (15.7), third in assists (5.38 per game), and seventh in steals (1.62 per game). Besides Stempin and Reynolds, Robierre Cullars (11.3) and Nick Moore (10.1) are averaging double figures in points.
Western Michigan (1-11, 1-2 MAC West):
WMU dropped two games last week, losing to Marshall 67-65 and to Toledo 89-72. In Huntington, the Broncos came back from an eight-point halftime deficit to nearly upset the Herd. Steve Reynolds canned a game-high 20 points and Reggie Berry had a strong 12-point performance off the bench. A dismal 5-of-22 (22.7%) showing from three-point range doomed WMU, who actually held an overall field goal advantage, 40.0% to 36.7%, over the Herd. The WMU defense limited the league's leading scorer, Tamar Slay, to just 5-of-23 (21.7%) from the field. Berry came off the bench again against Toledo to score a team-high 15 points. Berry, a freshman from Houston, Texas, averaged 5.9 ppg in WMU's first 10 contests before breaking out with 27 points the last two games. Berry is 8-of-17 (47.1%) and 10-of-11 (90.1%) from the line during that time.
Mid-American Conference teams have four wins over ranked teams thus far in the 2000-2001 season after producing just one such triumph last year (Ball State over No. 24 Purdue). Miami topped then No. 17/15 (ap/espn) Temple on Nov. 30, 66-58 behind Jason Grunkemeyer's 20 points. Marshall won on the road at No. 24 (ap) Dayton on Dec. 2, 67-65 as Tamar Slay popped in 19 points. Miami then matched Marshall's road win with a stunning 73-64 triumph at No. 10 Notre Dame on Dec. 9 as Alex Shorts and Mike Ensminger scored 16 points each and Ensminger pulled down 10 rebounds. Toledo's 69-66 win over No. 19/18 Cincinnati on Dec. 30 at Gund Arena was the fourth MAC victory over a ranked team this season. Greg Stempin led the Rockets with 21 points and a blocked shot in the closing seconds to secure the win.