MAC Basketball Review: Then There Were Five

Western Michigan 73, Miami 68 (box) — You really don't want to diffuse from the accomplishment of winning on the road, especially at Millett. You really don't. But it's hard not to think that this is a game MU would've won by six or seven points had Antonio Ballard not been flagrantly fouled and injured in the last game, because the RedHawks were basically playing a five-man rotation. The bench logged 14 total minutes, and the starting five appeared to run out of fumes, as marked by their 15-point lead with less than 14 to play evaporating in their faces.

Miami had a 42-28 halftime lead and — even with Flenard Whitfield being a non-factor getting his fourth foul early in the second half — the Broncos just kept pecking away at the lead until they sank a three to take the lead in the final two minutes, causing MU to force an overtime where their legs just weren't in it. WMU outscored the RedHawks 8-3 in the extra frame, a telltale sign of fatigue.

Again, I don't want to take much away from the comeback, but this team lost at Toledo, and they hadn't won in Millett since the late '80s, so this is quite unprecedented. They started Chris McHenry in place of Ballard, and he played admirably but he's not Ballard. And they just can't go on like this. Somebody else is going to need to rotate in for more than spot minutes, just so they don't burnout their starters. Miami falls to 4-3, not out of reach but certainly behind the eight-ball, as they're now alone in fourth place. WMU also ups their MAC record to 4-3 and remains in second place, which is a good place to be right now because:

OHIO 61, Ball State 60 (box) — Because right now Ball State is in a serious funk. Back-to-back home losses, even if they are against last year's MAC winner and this year's prohibitive favorite? Not a great sign, and you might as well dash any slim hopes of an at-large berth. This is officially a one-tourney-team conference again.

Highlights (with a fight at the :40 mark!)

The other strange note to come out of this is that Jarrod Jones didn't start for Ball State, but he did play 35 minutes and responded with a game-high 21-points, so you gotta think this was some type of slap-on-the-wrist team penalty. Otherwise that would have been his 70th straight start.

So this is a huge crossroads for the Cardinals. Yep, they're at 5-2 but that's a three-game losing streak if you've been paying attention. Their next four feature roadies in Miami, Bowling Green, and Akron, with a home date against Buffalo. At least two or three of those are winnable, you'd have to imagine, but they'll need to forget this disdainful week and get back on track. Meanwhile, OHIO claws their way back to 3-4, out of the cellar (a half game up on Akron) and back into this race.

Buffalo 63, Northern Illinois 52 (box) — Not exactly what you expected after a win over Akron for NIU. They never led against the Bulls, not even for a millisecond, and Xavier Silas' 20 points were mostly done via the free throw line (his specialty) but that 4-for-15 shooting will never get it done on the road. Meanwhile, UB shot reasonably well (mostly the Byron Mulkey/Zach Filzen show, per usual) while they did a solid job of limiting turnovers (just 10!) to better themselves to 5-2. They're tied with...

Bowling Green 68, Eastern Michigan 63 (box) — ...yeah, these guys again. A close win at home to EMU was probably not the comfiest method to improve to 5-2 with Buffalo, but the job can be considered done. But they're starting to assert themselves as the whackamole team. Last game it was Jakubowski and Calhoun as the killers: this time it was Scott Thomas. You can't protect every opening with your mallet. Whereas when playing the Eagles, you can keep bonking Brandon Bowdry in the head. Not like it slowed him down much in this game (24 and 15?) but everybody else was afraid to poke their heads out and pop a shot to bring them back in the game. EMU falls to 2-5 in the conference.

Sunday's games:
2:00 p.m. — Toledo at Kent State (SportsTime Ohio/ESPN3.com)
6:00 p.m. — Central Michigan at Akron (ESPNU)

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