Four very notable MACsketball games Saturday night. Akron bested BG on SportsTime Ohio, Buffalo had a whale of a comeback in Athens on ESPNU. And then there was, of course, a buzzer-beating tip-in and a ground-out win on the road that modern technology wasn't there to transmit to the masses:
Western Michigan 82, Northern Illinois 80 — Hoo, boy, WMU needed this win in the worst way. You can't drop back-to-back games against NIU and Toledo and call yourself the second-best team in the MAC West. It was Matt Stainbrook's buzzer-beating tip-in which was the difference, and the freshman center bounced back from a horrific game against Toledo with 18 points and seven rebounds. Four other Broncos scored at least 13 points, while Xavier Silas led NIU in three cats: 23 points, six rebounds, and two blocks.
There were more field goals (61) than rebounds (53) in this game, so it was basically a back-and-forth game of BOMBARDMENT. So Western improves to 3-2, while NIU falls back to 2-3.
Akron 63, Bowling Green 58 — An unlikely tilt for supremacy in the MAC East (something that nobody will ever own, ever), the Zips topping BGSU at home goes down as an "upset" according to the standings, but we all know better. UA halted their three-game losing streak by blasting some threes in the final minutes and staving off a furious and flashy BGSU comeback in the second half. Marvelous defense on both sides resulted in few offensive boards and 19 combined steals, forcing 32 of the 43 field goals made in the game to be assisted.
Darryl Roberts off the bench led Akron with 17 points, including a go-ahead-for-good three with 2 minutes remaining, as well as six free throws in the final 31 seconds of the game to ice the victory. Jordon Crawford is emerging as the catalyst for the Falcons' offense, ending up with 16 points, seven assists, and four steals. After the "upset," Akron is now at 2-3 in the MAC East, while BG holds onto a share for first at 3-2. Yeah.
Ball State 70, Toledo 60 — I intensely adore the even-numbered-score games, because of the easy recall factor. After a monstrously sloppy first half for both teams (Ball State couldn't score, Toledo couldn't handle the ball), logic became a self-correcting entity and the Cardinals pulled away, thanks to 83.9% free throw shooting. Randy Davis was 14-of-14 from said freebie line to lead BSU with 24 points and also did much of everything else with seven assists and four steals. In the loss Malcolm Griffin remained his bad self by netting 25 points.
The oddest play of the game was Toledo's Anthony Wright screen on Tyrae Robinson, a perfect (and I mean PERFECT) screen that laid out the Ball State guard and put him down for several minutes. His feet were set. His hands were folded. He was whistled for a blocking foul. It will be my goal to locate video of this.
Ball State remains a perfect 5-0, and Toledo is by their lonesome self in last place at 1-4.
Buffalo 73, OHIO 68 — What should be one of the toughest places for road wins in the MAC is turning out to be rather inviting for everybody. "Come on into the Convo and pad your record!!" Although it appeared that the defending MAC tournament champs were going to cruise after an 18-point halftime lead, UB outscored the Bobcats 48-25 in the second half. Most of that was the diligence of one Zach Filzen, who scored 20 points just in the second half, and 23 overall. While Thrillzen was 7-for-9 after halftime, the entire team was 72 percent from the field in the second half. Javon McCrea and Byron Mulkey ended up with a dozen each in those final 20 minutes. McCrea finished with 21 points for the game.
'Twas a forgettable night for D.J. Cooper offensively. He did dish out eight assists, but 2-of-10 shooting only netted him six points. DeVaughn Washington had a couple neat dunks in the second half to finish with 14 points, but it was basically a team collapse at home that is puzzling most pundits as to why they're 1-4 to start the MAC season. Meh; last year OHIO also began their season 1-4. Buffalo, meanwhile, crawls up to 3-2, in a tie for first. We've basically learned nothing.
2 p.m. — Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan
2 p.m. — Miami at Kent State (SportsTime Ohio/ESPN3.com)