MAC Pepsi Players of the Week
Preseason MAC East Division favorite Akron is living up to its billing as the Zips' 3-0 league record has set the pace. Akron faces a challenge from 2-1 Marshall Wednesday night at Rhodes Arena. Ball State and Eastern Michigan both have 1-0 records in the West Division and face each other Saturday afternoon in Muncie. BSU, however, hosts preseason West Division favorite Toledo Wednesday night.
Ball State has won nine games in a row, the fifth most in school history, since a season-opening loss to Wisconsin. Kent has earned six consecutive wins since a 75-73 loss at Michigan. Both the Cardinals and Golden Flashes have 9-1 records. Ball State's start is its best since the 1988-89 team went 11-0. Kent's current record is the team's best ever through 10 games.
Marshall's 10-game winning streak was halted at Bowling Green Sunday afternoon as the Falcons went on a first-half 19-0 run to fuel an 85-64 victory. The Falcons' victory was fuled by a first-half 19-0 run. Four of BG's starters scored at least 13 points, led by Dave Esterkamp's 23 and Keith McLeod's 21. BG improved to 9-2 and dating back to last year, the Falcons have won 16 of their last 20 games.The Thundering Herd's 10-0 start was the best since the 1946-47 squad ran off a 17-0 record en route to claiming the NAIB national championship. The only other team in Marshall history to start better than this year's team was a 12-0 mark in 1929-30. Kent's 61-57 overtime win at Miami snapped the RedHawks 17-game home winning streak, which was the 12th longest current home winning streak in the nation. John Whorton led the Golden Flashes with 20 points.
Mid-American Conference teams have posted a 64-41 record for a 60.9% winning rate versus Division I opponents thus far. The wins have translated into a tie for 10th place in the RPI ratings as of Jan. 1. Two MAC teams were ranked in the top 10 RPI, Kent at No. 6 and Ball State at No. 10.
Akron's players off the bench continue to play a major role in the team's success, which is reflected in a 9-3 record. Led by Andy Hipsher's 7.0 ppg and John Carson's 5.9 ppg, Akron is benefiting from 23.8 ppg from its non-starters. Hipsher had a team-high 21 points in the 73-62 win versus Western Michigan.
After playing 11 consecutive games away from home, the Toledo Rockets returned to Savage Hall on Jan. 2 and responded with an 80-57 drubbing of Central Michigan. It was the team's first home contest since a Nov. 19 win against George Mason. UT went 5-6 with games at eight different sites, including three in Hawaii and two in Milwaukee.
Eight MAC teams are undefeated
at home with Akron a 7-0, Marshall 6-0 and Ball State 5-0 leading the way. BSU is 44-4 in its last 48 home games for a 91.7 wiining percentage.
TURNING THE TABLES:
Two MAC teams have surpassed their win total from last year. Eastern Michigan is 7-3 after posting a 5-20 record and Northern Illinois is 7-5 coming off a 6-20 mark. Of EMU's seven wins, six are versus non-conference teams, a group which the Eagles went 0-7 against last year. Much of the Eagles' success is their field goal defense, which ranks first in the MAC at 35.7%, and they also lead the league in blocked shots (5.9 per game) and three-point field goal defense (28.3%).
The BG Falcons have shot 55.0% (99-of-180) from the floor the last three games, all of which are wins. The Falcons shot a blistering 66.9% (19-of-28) in the first half versus Marshall in taking a 46-29 intermission lead. BG's Keith McLeod has shot 66.7% (22-of-33) from three-point range over the last seven games and leads the MAC in that category at 57.4% (27-of-47).
Buffalo's Alexei Vasiliev is just as accurate from three-point range (16-of-32) as he is from two-point range (18-of-36). In additon to McLeod (57.4%) and Vasiliev, Miami's Jason Grunkemeyer (54.5%) and Marshall's Joda Burgess (51.7%) are shooting at 50.0% or better on three point field goal attempts.
Last year Kent rode to a school record 23 wins with depth that allowed head coach Gary Waters to play 10 players 10 or more minutes a game. More of the same this year for the 9-1 Golden Flashes, who have eight players seeing 10 or more minutes a game. The depth at Kent is of quality, evidenced by sophomore Trevor Huffman, who has not started a game all year, leading the team in both scoring (14.3) and assists (4.3). Huffman was also named MVP of the Sierra Sun Classic Tournament in El Paso and MAC Offensive Player of the Week for his 26 points in the title game versus host UTEP.
HUSKIES COOL DOWN:
After winning seven of their first nine games, the Northern Illinois Huskies have dropped three in a row. The first loss was at #23 DePaul, the second at Fairfield, and the third was at home versus a 9-1 Ball State team. The Huskies do have a win against an 8-4 Wisconsin squad, which was NIU's first win against a Big Ten team since 1986.
The Ohio University Bobcats continue to spend time on the road. Since a Dec. 18 home game versus Toledo, the Bobcats have played three games in Hawaii and will spend the next two contests at Kent and Miami before returning to the Convo on Jan. 11 for a game against Akron.
STONEROOK CONTINUES STRONG PLAY:
Ohio's Shaun Stonerook had a monster game in an 84-78 double overtime loss to 19th-ranked Wake Forest on Dec. 29. Stonerook, who leads the MAC and ranks among the top national leaders in rebounding (11.5) scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Stonerook has 10 double-doubles this season.
Off-season foot surgery has sidelined the 1999 MAC Freshman of the Year, Central Michigan's Mike Manciel, for the entire season. Manciel will have a screw put in his left foot and will not return this year. Manciel averaged 17.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game last year for the Chippewas, both team highs. Look for sophomore guard David Webber to continue picking up the scoring loss left by Manciel's departure. Webber, the younger brother of Sacramento King Chris Webber, is averaging a MAC sixth-best 18.6 ppg and has a high of 29 points against Detroit.
MAC QUICK NOTES:
Akron's starting five has 375 career starts ... BG's Brandon Pardon had no points but 11 assists in 33 minutes versus Marshall ... Kent is 28-3 at home the last three seasons ... Cornelius Jackson of Marshall handed out a MAC season high 15 assists versus Central Michigan and fell three assists shy of the school record held by current head coach Greg White ... the Thundering Herd's Joda Burgess is averaging 11.7 ppg off the bench ... after connecting on just 41 of his first 94 field goal attempts (43.6%), Northern Illinois' Leon Rodgers has made 20 of his last 36 attempts (55.5%) ... the MAC's leading scorer (20.2), Tony Barksdale of Western Michigan University, has been indefinitely suspended from the team ... Miami's Rob Mestas played all 45 minutes in the RedHawks overtime loss to Kent.
This Week's MAC Schedule
Wednesday, January 5
*Toledo at Ball State, 7:00
*Northern Illinois at Bowling Green, 7:00
*Buffalo at Eastern Michigan, 7:00
*Ohio at Kent, 7:00
*Marshall at Akron, 7:30
*Miami at Central Michigan, 7:00
Saturday, January 8
*Ohio at Miami, noon
*Eastern Michigan at Ball State, 1:00
*Akron at Toledo, 7:00
*Kent at Marshall, 7:00
*Western Michigan at Northern Illinois, 7:05
*Bowling Green at Buffalo, 7:30