The 2020 MAC Tournament tipped off on Monday night, with four games hosted by the middle seeds on campus.
This year’s tournament is expected to be one of the most unpredictable in the country, as no team has less than four conference losses, and two-time defending champion Buffalo stuck as a five-seed after a down year following the loss of coach Nate Oats to Alabama this past offseason.
Needless to say, the first offering of games held up to promise, as at least one double-digit seed is ready to move on to Cleveland, and a new MAC champion is guaranteed.
We take a look back at the result’s of Monday night’s action below:
#5 Buffalo Bulls vs. #12 Miami Redhawks
The Miami RedHawks pulled off a massive upset on the road in front of a hostile crowd, taking the lead in the final minute of the game and holidng on to take an 85-79 victory to Cleveland.
Nike Sibande was unstoppable for the RedHawks, scoring 31 points and going 9-of-10 from the free throw line, leading all scorers. Miami converted 46 percent of their field goals (including 40 percent from three-point range) and couldn’t miss from the line in the second half, going an incredible 9-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Buffalo ultimately fell in what was a back-and-forth affair (which saw the lead change nine times), but put up a good fight against a scrappy Miami side themselves.
Ronaldo Segu led the Bulls with 20 points, with Jayvon Graves (16), Josh Mballa (13) and Davonta Jordan (11) joining him in double-digit point efforts. Jeenathan Williams grabbed 10 rebounds, while Graves picked up four blocks to lead the Bulls in each of those respective categories.
Miami will now face the #4 seed NIU in Cleveland later this week.
#6 Kent State vs. #11 Eastern Michigan
The Eagles mounted a furious comeback in the second half, but ultimatley couldn’t pull off the upset against the sixth-seeded Golden Flashes, as Kent State will move on to Cleveland on the strength of an 86-76 victory.
All five starters hit double-digits in points for the Flashes, with Danny Pippen (20) leading the way. PIppen, who was perfect from the free throw line (10-10), also picked up nine rebounds and three assists. Antonio Williams (18 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals), Anthony Roberts (14 points, four rebounds, six assists) and Phillip Whittington (12 points, six rebounds, four assists) led the way for much of the game. Troy Simons also contributed with 10 points and four rebounds.
Eastern scored 48 second-half points to help bridge the double-digit gap from the first half, but couldn’t convert the free throwns when needed, going 8-of-13 in the second half and 12-of-19 for the game.
Morgan Noah led all scorers with 30 points to go along with his two rebounds and four assists, while Boubacar Toure brought down 13 rebounds (to lead all players) and scored 14 points in a dobule-double effort. Ty Groce was the only other double-digit scorer for EMU, collecting 14 points, three rebounds, two steals and one block.
Kent State will face off against #3 seed Ball State in Cleveland in the MAC quarterfinals later this week.
#7 Toledo vs. #10 Western Michigan
The Rockets had to fight for their postseason lives in the second half, as they blew a 19-point lead and nearly allowed WMU to take over the game just over two minutes left. But they persevered, taking away a 76-73 victory on Monday night.
Toledo was led by Willie Jackson and his double-double (22 points, 16 rebounds) and Marreon Jackson’s electric shooting performance (25 points, including 5-of-7 from three-point range) in their victory effort, with big man Luke Knapke also contributing a double-double of his own (18 points, 11 rebounds.) The Rockets really leaned on those three, as they combined for 70 of the team’s 76 points in the game, giving Western the opportunity to come back.
WMU’s Michael Flowers exploded for a career night, leading all scorers with 35 points (13-of-22 field goals) in 38 minutes of play. Brandon Johnson (19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks) helped defensively, while Titus Wright came up one basket short of a double-double (8 points, 11 rebounds.)
The Rockets never relinquished the lead, but they certainly looked vulnerable after reaching a 19-point gap with approximately 13 minutes to go in the second half, a number which was whittled down to 1 with 1:58 to play.
Toledo will face #2 seed Bowling Green in Cleveland on Thurdsay in the MAC quarterfinals, in a rare rivalry rematch.
#8 Ohio vs. #9 Central Michigan
The Ohio Bobcats never trailed in their host game against Central Michigan, cruising along to a 20-point victory at the Convocation Center by a final score of 85-65.
It wasn’t the prettiest of held leads, however, as CMU mounted a fierce second-half run to try and bridge the gap after falling behind 60-31 at the 15:31 mark. The Chippewas mounted a 30-11 run in the next 11 minutes to bring the deficit down to 11 points with 4:48 remaining.
Ohio would regain their composure from there, ultimately shutting out the Chips from the 2:40 mark onwards and going on a 13-2 run to seal the deal.
Ben Van Der Plas (25 points) led all scorers, while fellow teammate Jason Preston (21 points) was right behind him to pace the Bobcats. Van Der Plas was a true facilitator, with 10 rebounds and seven assists to go along with his point total. As a unit, the Bobcats had 24 assists on 31 made field goals in what was an efficient offensive performance. Ohio shot 57 percent on the game, including 47 percent from three-point range.
Senior guards Kevin McKay (18 points) and Dallas Morgan (14 points) lead the way for the Chippewas, whose patented three-point offense failed to get going in part due to a 3-of-25 performance from three-point range.
Ohio will face in-state peer (and #1 overall seed) Akron in Cleveland for the MAC quarterfinals on Thursday.