MAC Basketball Review: The West Leader Can't Lose To The East Loser, And Yet—

Notes from a mostly-lopsided, occasionally brilliant night in MACskeball, where one game was within nine points and it featured a first- and last-place team:

MIAMI 62, EASTERN MICHIGAN 57 (OT) — So by default this was the "good" game. The score looks high, yes, and that extra five minutes sure helped! And I'm not entirely sure how 27 points were tallied in that overtime frame (5.4 ppm) when it was just 46-46 after regulation (2.3 ppm). Of course, I'm just staring at the total number of points and again demonstrating how tough the EMU defense is.

Except that's just what let them down at the moment they needed it. Up 45-34 in the final three minutes, Miami finished the half with a 12-1 run in a 2:39 span and that ain't right. So it's a lapse in defense but the offense didn't help much, thanks to turnovers and offensive fouls.

As the dust settled Julian Mavunga wound up with a mighty box score line (19 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists) padded by EMU's decision to keep fouling him, even before the ball was inbounded, because it's not like he takes the most FTs of anyone in the MAC and also hits them at 73 percent. No. And he made 13-of-17 of them, to few's surprise. Mavunga's craziest play might've been an alley-oop pass to reserve senior Adam Thomas, who will be heralded as a late-game sparkplug on this rally, and perhaps rightly so.

This also means that the lone MAC West leader lost to the last-place MAC East team. We're just not at that divisional parity level, yet. At all.

For EMU, Darrell Lampley scored a team-high 17 points but on 17 shots, while DaShonte Riley finished with a modest eight points and 11 rebounds.

EMU falls to 5-3 (but still in first place, as you'll see) while Miami improves to 2-6, still two games behind everyone else in the MAC East.

AKRON 86, TOLEDO 72 — And I guess the men and women switch roles here. UT women are difficult to beat at home; likewise for UA men. And neither won "pretty," yet both were double-digit wins which they can probably sleep with, surviving and advancing. In this case, five Zips kept it balanced with double-digit points, led by Quincy Diggs with 16 points and Zeke Marshall who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.

UT got a giant performance from Rian Pearson, the best this season, with 29 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. But while they're improved (last year they'd have lost this by probably 28 instead of 14), they're still not at the depth and veteran skills they need to compete with top MAC teams.

Akron stays atop everybody at 7-1 while Toledo skids to 2-6.

BUFFALO 73, BALL STATE 57 – Maybe it's the distance? Whatever the reason, people just play worse at Alumni Arena. Additionally Ball State is just playing worse overall. Double whammy. The Bulls finally pulled away with a second-half run and, yep, the threes helped. A 64.0 eFG is hard to keep up with, especially if you can't guard Zach Filzen, and he hit 4-of-6 three pointers for a total of 14 points. Mitchell Watt was the performer of the game, though, with 20 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists.

Jarrod Jones can't and won't do it alone for Ball State. He showed up with his 21 points and eight rebounds and may want to see if he has Brandon Bowdry's cell phone number, because he's starting to assume the 2010-11 EMU forward's role if this team can't get another scorer inside.

So Ball State misses a chance to gain ground on EMU and goes back to 4-4. Buffalo keeps pace with the rest of the East at 6-2.

OHIO 67, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 58 — A grand audience of 784 saw this, and yet it was strangely the second-closest game of the night. I hate to rag on him when he does bad, but D.J. Cooper was rather invisible in the game. He does better, this game's more of a blowout. So Walter Offutt led the game with 19 points and Reggie Keely added 13.

Antone Christian had a game for NIU not seen in about a year for them with 15 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three. This team's just not the same without Tim Toler, and yet they are.

OHIO goes up to 6-2 while NIU's down to 1-7.

BOWLING GREEN 72, WESTERN MICHIGAN 48 — Giggle. Giggle giggle. I can't stop smiling at this one, and I know I should quit, because if BG was any streakier, actual falcons would stop flying directly into them.

But considering timing, location and personnel … a 24-point BGSU victory was wholly unexpected. This was not only the Falcons most lopsided road win in 11 years, it's also WMU's first home loss of the season and first regular season loss since Kent State back on 2/21/11. (They also lost to Buffalo in the CIT on March 19, if you count that.)

The Falcons just struck every chord beautifully, except for the rebounding (WMU won the offensive glass 14-5). They shot and made. They got their share of alley-oops. They defended. They forced turnovers. They hit free throws. They might be the Los Angeles Clippers of the MAC, in that they're talented but erratic, but people are watching the Clippers and so should you, if you enjoy entertaining basketball.

Dee Brown scored 31 points, Jordon Crawford added 16 points and eight rebounds, and A'uston Calhoun gave them 15 points. For WMU, Shayne Whittington led the way with 12 points and Mike Douglas shot for 10.

Both teams are now flush at 4-4.

TUESDAY: KENT STATE 67, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 60 — Failed to mention this one yesterday. While I don't think you can pin this on Trey Zeigler's free throw woes entirely (4-for-9 in a seven-point loss), it certainly changed the landscape of the game in the late possessions. Guards should be better than 54.1% on free throws, right?

But I'm going to say it was basically KSU's ability to score just enough to get by. Randal Holt (RANDAL HOLT!) bucketed 23 points while three others shared the fun with 10+ points. Austin McBroom was the shooter on CMU's night with 19 points, while Zeigler added 17.

So Kent State's at 5-3, still in the East hunt, while CMU languishes at 2-7.

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