A thought or two on each team, not necessarily focused on their performance tonight:
KENT STATE (16-7, 7-2) — While relegated to the fact that EMU is one of the easier wins in the league, they can and will jump on your early when given the chance. Nice resilience to unmanacle oneself from complacency and stow the game comfortably away in the second half. Try to do it next time with a skosh fewer than 18 turnovers.
BOWLING GREEN (12-12, 7-3) — This is the only way they know how to close games out: very poorly, but eventually successfully. There in the The House That Bites Nails, they somehow made a 7-point lead with 25 seconds to play resemble surmountable for the Cardinals. Jeezus, guys. Oh well ... they're 7-3. And please: do try and box out.
MIAMI (12-12, 7-3) — Huh. They're just not going away, are they? Also at 7-3, they took care of business at home, and by "they" I mean "only those who started the game." Two weeks down the road, I envision their starting five just barreling into this brick wall, with the struct coming out as the victor. The bench played just 41 minutes, which compared to some previous games made Julian Mavunga look lazy. Only 32 minutes? Hell, he should've been in there for 42. Even in a regulation match.
BALL STATE (14-9, 6-4) — Tough loss, and they blew their hustle wad on the first 10 minutes, but here's why they couldn't cap the rally: down four and fouled with seconds to go, Jarrod Jones rightly made the first and missed the second, and the Cardinals even rebounded, but they never kicked the ball out to the perimeter for a 3-point shot. A harmless layup as time expired was all they could manage. If they're not careful, the West isn't going to be theirs much longer.
AKRON (14-10, 5-5) — Nothing like a regionally televised game in your own backyard to help soothe the symptoms, no? At least they actually poured in the points, making it the first win of their last five victories to surpass the 65-point mark. And how.
OHIO (12-12, 5-5) — Cooper's injury notwithstanding, it doesn't take much brainpower to overwhelm a freshman-laden team. Shoot enough times and then trap the kid who looks scared out there, forcing a turnover. Profit. Also, this bears mention: OHIO and Akron are tied for last in the MAC East, sans losing record.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-15, 3-7) — Okay, enough harping on the "As Xavier Silas goes, so goes the team." Is anyone else stepping up? Well, no, not really. At least not for a string of games. Tim Toler didn't look the part but he played a 3-point-making machine about a month ago, but his touch has seemingly disappeared.
EASTERN MICHIGAN (6-17, 3-7) — Same question, differenet player. "Other than Bowdry, who else?" We've mentioned Jamell Harris' emergence as a defensive presence (another four blocks tonight), but the scoring is basically distributed evenly across the board. Two points here, seven, points there. They actually played quite well against Kent State, it's just that Greene was too much and he opened up some shots for the guards.
TOLEDO (4-20, 1-9) — So that's now 43 straight losses. Oh, and guard J.T. Thomas re-aggravated his foot injury and he might be shelved for the season. Why not bring some more bad news into the fold? Never mind talking about The Last Time The Cavs Won. New game: the last time Toledo won on the road, Stan Joplin was the coach, and LeBron James hadn't won an NBA league MVP yet. They may need to wait until the 50th game.
Tonight's Hustle Five
Tommy Freeman, OHIO: 21 points (7-of-14 3PT), 5 rebounds
Allen Roberts, Miami: 23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Brandon Bowdry, EMU: 25 points, 7 steals, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Justin Greene, Kent State: 23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks
Demetrius Ward, WMU: 26 points (14-of-14 FT), 4 rebounds