The MAC finished the BracketBusters event with a 5-7 record. Not awesome, but they hung around in most games, and the only surprise losses at home were thanks to the weaker teams. Thanks, weaker teams!
James Madison 70, Miami 69 — Indeed, Julian Mavunga shot the lights out, by which I mean the power went out during the game. Once electricity was restored, the finish was well-worth it. Miami's record is nothing to look at, but they're playing everybody well despite the barely-over-.500 mark. The difference in the game was a mere free throw, sank in the final few seconds thanks to a Miami foul. That was it. Nick Winbush again played the full 40, meaning in their last eight he's played all but 20 minutes of action. And that includes two overtime games. Oxford knows no sweatshop laws.
Western Michigan 68, Illinois State 65 — Normally this is the type of thing that happens when the breaks aren't falling your way:
With WMU trailing 39-30, Whitfield stole an entry pass and appeared to finish a fast break with a thunderous slam dunk. However, the ball hit Whitfield on the head and popped back through the hoop. Play was allowed to continue...
One: NEED VIDEO OF THIS NOW PLZ
Two: Flenard Whitfield may have failed to convert a dunk in the most hilarious fashion, but it was far from a bad day for him. His ankle finally felt good sometime in the second half, when the Broncos were down 11, and if you believe in the whole +/- stat, Whitfield was a +13 on the afternoon. The rally wouldn't have happened without his offense and defense. Had they lost this game, you might look at WMU and say that if they can't beat a Missouri Valley bottom-feeder at home, they're probably impostors in first place. But this helps give them some hustle cred.
Niagara 61, Central Michigan 55 — The MAC has 12 teams. The MAAC has 10 teams. The MAC has Buffalo. The MAAC has Niagara. Don't think that these two teams are alike other than their geographic situation. CMU was grandfather-clocked by the Bulls a couple weeks ago, but they hung tough in their return trip back to the Buffalo metro area. But it seems like such a story that was told earlier this year: Trey Ziegler missed several shots and Jalin Thomas picked up the slack. The team's saving grace? 19 offensive rebounds for a 48% OR rate. Mother.
Seattle 60, Northern Illinois 48 — No shame in losing to the SuperSonics, if that's indeed who they played. Just put Gary "The Glove" Payton on Xavier Silas and he'll understandably finish with a mere six points, which was a season low (and he JUST set his season-low to 7 points on Wednesday.) And to collectively shoot 33.3% for the whole game? Well, Shawn Kemp was also pretty good at defense. But Seattle was only 1-for-9 on threes? Nate McMillan must've had an off-night.
Eastern Michigan 63, Jacksonville State 60 — Ain't no drama like Eagles drama, I always say. This buzzer-beater went much better than their last attempt, although technically it didn't beat a buzzer. The buzzer wasn't in the picture when this ball sank. Aw, hell, just give it to 'em. Derek Thompson's three points all came on that last-second shot to lift EMU up over J-State, although Brandon Bowdry was everpresent for the other 39 minutes. This was just EMU's day in sports. The men won, the women's team also won big, and the baseball team upset #4 Clemson. February 20 shall be known as Sports Day in Ypsilanti.
Eastern Illinois 75, Toledo 58 — It looked like a sound matchup coming into the game. This was under the assumption that Reese Holliday wasn't going to walk on the court in a large protective boot. So yet another hustlegard is out for the Rockets, and there was noticeably less push in the Rockets, especially down the stretch, when they began to tire on both sides of the court. EIU's eight-game win streak is snapped because they drew well in the BracketBusters, and suddenly when their game was starting to improve, they're down to five scholarship players with healthy bodies, none of which are quality rebounders.
Buffalo 80, Milwaukee 65 — Here was your tearjerker of the day. Reggie Witherspoon's father died earlier this week, and then the team came back around with a big win over a solid Horizon League team. Also, there were mucho students in the stands, which helped to nearly double their average home attendance. And it took this long in the paragraph to mention Zach Filzen's 30 points. Shows you how much was going on in that arena Saturday night.
Wofford 66, Ball State 61 — The longest part of this game was this one 3-point shot by Wofford which demonstrated EXTREME CENTRIFUGAL POWER. And then some clutch defense at the end forced turnovers, because God loves a Terrier. Only six Ball State guys scored anything at all, but they scored enough to make this one close down the stretch. This was a good challenge for Ball State, and other than those last two minutes, they didn't completely fall flat on their faces. In conclusion: nuts to the SoCon.
Akron 76, Creighton 67 — So, don't look now, but the Zips are just barreling through everybody. That's now five in a row, and they're doing it the ugly way: through big men scoring loads of points. Even through they were outrebounded by the Bluejays, Nikola Cvetinovic and Brett McKnight combined for more than half of Akron's points, and a flurry of other fresh legs seemed to wear down CU at the right time: the second half. That's always the best time to take a lead, isn't it?
OHIO 77, Winthrop 74 (OT) — If you've been paying attention, this was the MAC's only road BracketBusters win. And it took extra time, because the deities were unsure if it was this team — the one who played all the nonconference hom games — that deserved to be the sole road warrior. And they almost didn't: the Eagles (who really mimicked the classic BGSU Falcons logo quite nicely) went on a 9-0 run in the final few minutes to force overtime. Hot and cold, it goes. And true to form, OHIO rattled off some strange lines: D.J. Cooper only had eight points, matching his assist total, but six of those were in overtime. Tommy Freeman was 7-for-11 from the field, all shots behind the line, for 21 points. And DeVaughn Washington had two dunk points and 23 non-dunk points. Whaaa?
Youngstown State 83, Bowling Green 76 — And of course the highest-paced game was courtesy of the Penguins, a team named after an animal who moves fast by gliding on its belly. They went nuts (for squid!), as documented by the 17-3 run that lasted over eight minutes, dipping into the 2-minute non-warning. That's some rough stuff to overcome, and maybe it's why YSU beat Butler earlier this month: late-game runs! (And it was: the Penguins were down 10 points with 5:27 against the defending national runners up before eventually winning by 2.) Both teams shot 50.8%, but oh here's what happened: Youngstown had just six turnovers all game. Talk about protecting the sacred sphere well.
Brandon Bowdry, EMU: 28 points, 2.00 PPS, 13 rebounds
Zach Filzen, Buffalo: 30 points, 2.00 PPS
DeVaughn Washington, OHIO: 25 points, 1.78 PPS, 8 rebounds, 3 steals
Julian Mavunga, Miami: 24 points, 1.84 PPS, 6 assists, 2 rebounds
Jalin Thomas, CMU: 23 points, 1.27 PPS, 5 rebounds