Kent State 70, West Virginia 60 — It was a long … well, a little less than a year since the last time the MAC beat a Big East team. It's also fair to say they didn't have many chances since Kent State beat South Florida on their home wood.
But that was USF; and it was a home game. This was a season debut on the road. ESPN's A-list crew was there: Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery. The game was at 10 a.m., part of their round-the-clock marathon, and ended up being one of their signature non-Coach K moments of the day.
Mostly 'cause of this Chris Evans dunk. Unable to lie about this:
Evans finished with a simple but meaningful eight points; three seniors were the real driving force in this second-half comeback. Carlton Guyton: 17 points, few of them off easy shots. Justin Greene did work inside, winding up with 12 points and eight rebounds. Defensive POY Michael Porrini contributed 11 points and five rebounds on just six shots; the most efficient man on the court, actually. Randal Holt had a few treys to total 13 points.
So that dunk is going to get the press. Not a problem with that. But how about Rob Senderoff's halftime speech? Part of this was shown during the second half: he pointed out to his team that West Virginia had six freshmen and "they will crumble under the pressure."
Far be it for me or this blog to start rallying cries for teams, but "They Will Crumble" almost seems perfect. Think of how the MAC is pitted against greater teams: the MAC is supposed to crumble. If a win is to be head, it's going to be escaping with the win or stealing the victory. This is praise fit for a dextrous opponent. But they will crumble. This implies that Kent State was the stronger team. Senderoff actually said that, minutes after West Virginia was destroying the Flashes on rebounds by plus-15 in the first half. How's that for instilling strength and confidence?
This is the MAC's second "Red Line Upset" in a week; Akron had Mississippi State's number a week ago, also on ESPN. Both games were won by double-digits. I got a question today wondering if the MAC is now a multi-bid NCAA tournament conference. Whoa, buddy — there's a lot of time left. This is a great start, and as typified by some of the other wins by the MAC this year, they are going to improve their status, but they're still straggling behind the likes of the Ivy League and the MAAC in terms of conference strength. There is a ways to go. Akron and Kent State could both be strong contenders, but knowing how the MAC enjoys painful parity, a 23-win season probably won't be enough to sneak into the big dance as a 12-seed.
This day was about as fun as a MAC basketball day could get. I'm trying my damnedest not to escalate my expectations beyond slight improvement across the board. It'll be there. But a two-bid conference? Too much has to happen.
Other men's games:
Miami 72, Dayton 67 (OT) — And a win over the MAC's richer neighbor, the Atlantic-10! The Flyers had a five-game winning streak on the RedHawks in what is about an annual get-together between the two close schools. And in Julian Mavunga's first game — I hope his legs have since regenerated from all those minutes last year — he brought some numbers into Millett: 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and ... ah, 43 minutes? So we'll do this again.
It was also the debut of Penn State transfer Bill Edwards, who registered a double-double as well: 14 points and 10 rebounds. Diminutive freshman Brian Sullivan may emerge as a 3-point treat, who hit four of 'em en route to 14 points of his own off the bench.
Charlotte 77, CMU 75 (2OT) — Really, really close game here, but I was truly impressed with Trey Zeigler's performance, even if he couldn't win it for them. Then again, he was just about the only fella who didn't foul out for the Chippewas. At the end of the first OT, Zeigler had the ball in his hands with his team down two. He brought the attention, then kicked it to Zach Saylor for a very short tying jumper. When Andre Coimbra picked up his fifth foul I figured they didn't have enough forward size to keep up this charade. Then Olivier Mbaigoto fouled out, nullifying both starting forwards. Then Saylor fouled out. Then Austin McBroom (15 points) fouled out.
OK line for Zeigler: 22 points, 15 rebounds, three steals, but all on 26 shots and he went 4-for-11 from the line. He additionally clanked a free throw at the end of regulation that would've perhaps won the game. This was very much the type of performance we saw last year as a touted freshman, but there's some noticeable experience in his oeuvre. Derek Jackson had 18 points of his own.
OHIO 85, Lamar 78 (OT) — Not entirely sure how a game is played, goes to overtime, never sees a lead bigger than 10, and it's the second-least interesting game of the day. But the Bobcats are an exciting team on nearly every night, if not occasionally erratic. D.J Cooper used his "scoring face" to lead the way with 21 points but just three assists. Ivo Baltic and Stevie Taylor each added 14 points. Excellent free-throw shooting across the board, too. 21-for-26. In overtime they made buckets and their defense was just too much for Lamar's limp-wristed throwing style.
Texas Southern 66, EMU 49 — It begins with a double-digit win against the Big East. It ends with a double-digit loss to the SWAC. I'm entirely unsure what to make of that, but we can assert that the Eagles are going to be struggling all year. Why not start early? The Tigers made a handful more 3-points shots and actually got to the free-throw line — something EMU did once and missed both attempts. Darrell Lampley led EMU with 15 points, all concocted by 3-point shots.
Robert Morris 78, Kent State 44 — Not exactly on par with how the men did. Bucknell transfer Trisha Krewson was KSU's only double-figurer, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Today's men's games:
7 p.m. — Cornell at Buffalo
Today's women's games:
7 p.m. — Miami at Marshall
8 p.m. — Western Illinois at NIU
8 p.m. — Toledo at Green Bay
8 p.m. — Ball State at SIU-Edwardsville