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2021-22 Mid-American Conference Basketball Review: Nov. 15-21

Buffalo beats the defending C-USA Champs, Ohio and NIU impress in defeat, an NBA update and some woman’s hoops notes highlight the week that was.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

We can't blame you if you were distracted from the start of basketball season with the excitement of the MACtion football slate, but we are settling into basketball.

Here are some quick hits on the week that was in the land of MACsketball.

It was a rough week for the MAC

In men’s basketball, it wasn’t a banner week for the conference. By my math, league members went 8-10 on the week, with three of those victories against non-Division I opponents—and one of those ten loses against a Division two school, which we will touch upon later.

Perhaps two of the more impressive showings within the conference, came in defeat. Northern Illinois, picked last in the preseason poll, was upset-minded again on the road against Missouri. Although Rashon Bruno’s squad fell 54-37, they actually held a second half lead until 13:33 remaining. To limit Missouri to just 54 points speaks to some impressive defense. Trendon Hankerson, the pride of Novi, Michigan, continues to be impressive on the young season and scored eight of the Huskies’ 37 points.

The previously undefeated Ohio Bobcats traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to face blue blood program Kentucky. Despite 19 points from Ben Vander Plas, Ohio fell 77-59 at historic Rupp Arena to the nation’s #13 team. Ohio at one point led by seven, but Kentucky took its final lead with 14:31 to play and never looked back.

Buffalo knocks off defending Conference USA champs North Texas

The Buffalo Bulls traveled to Denton, Texas, to play the reigning Conference USA champions, the North Texas Mean Green over the past week. Buffalo pulled out nice 69-66 road victory after initially trailing 36-32 at the half. Buffalo was led by four players scoring in double figures, including a career-high of 18 points from Maceo Jack. Ronaldo Segu and Josh Mballa had 17 points apiece.

North Texas won 18 games last season and knocked off the Purdue Boilermakers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite being picked to finish sixth in this years Conference USA Preseason poll, it is still an impressive road win for Buffalo.

Buffalo followed up the victory with an 87-65 victory over Rider. They are now 2-1 with their only lose coming by 12 points to #6 Michigan.

Western Michigan falls to Division II Saginaw Valley State

Western Michigan returned to University Arena to host in-state division two school Saginaw Valley State, what could go wrong?

The answer was, apparently, everything, as the Broncos fell 80-63 to the visiting Cardinals. WMU turned the ball over 15 times, and saw the Saginaw-based outfit pick up 18 points off turnovers to WMU’s 4. The Broncos wasted 25 points from transfer Lamar Norman Jr. in the defeat. SVSU mostly led throughout the game as they held an 11-point lead in the first half.

Things have been rough in Kalamazoo since replacing the venerable Steve Hawkins with his former assistant Clayton Bates. WMU went 5-16 a year ago, and is now 1-2 this season with their only win coming against Division III’s Hope College. What amde it all the worse for the Broncos faithful was that the D2 Cardinals looked like the better team throughout the contest, as Western struggled to drive to the basket all game long.

The Broncos desperately need all-MAC preseason guard B-Artis White to return from his ankle injury, which he suffered in their blow-out defeat to Michigan State.

4. Central Michigan beats Eastern Illinois on a buzzer beater.

Things are looking better for Western’s rival Central Michigan as the Chippewas found their first victory on the road at Eastern Illinois, in what was the MAC’s most exciting finish on the week. Transfer Jermaine Jackson Jr. got the Tony Barbee era off to a flying start, hitting a buzzer-beating layup off of a Christian Laettner-esque pass to knock off the Cougars.

The buzzer-beater ended a night which saw the Chippewas come back from a 20-point deficit and gave Tony Barbee his first victory as a Chippewa. Jackson and Cameron Healy had 14 points in the victory.

NBA Update: Former Falcon Richaun Holmes is balling, while Abdel Nadar is playing for a winner

This off-season, former Bowling Green great Richaun Holmesgot paid to the tune of four years and almost 47 million dollars from the Sacramento Kings. The contract is a far cry from his days as a second-round draft choice of the “trust the process” Philadelphia 76ers. So far, he is living up to that contract by averaging a double double of 13.8 points per game, and 10.1 rebounds per game. On Monday night at the Pistons, Holmes went for 19 points and nine boards. Earlier this season, he had a 20-rebound game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Another former MAC hoopster, Abdel Nader of Northern Illinois, is averaging 2.4 points and 1.9 rebounds a game for a Phoenix Suns team which has won 11 straight games and is the reigning Western Conference champions.

Former Ohio Bobcat Jason Preston has yet to make his debut due to injury for the Clippers after his selection in the second round. He was a gem in the Summer League, scoring 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game.

MAC WBB Update: CMU retires five numbers; EMU women score 133.

Woman’s basketball is off to a good start in the MAC. Those who follow the woman’s version of MAC hoops knows that Central Michigan has been the gold standard in recent years, taking that crown from the Toledo Rockets. This weekend, the Chippewas welcomed nationally-ranked Michigan to Mount Pleasant.

(CMU and Michigan have a bevy of connections, with legendary coach Sue Guevara and current head coach Heather Oesterle having been hired from there, and former Chippewas such as Reyna Frost joining the Michigan staff as assistants.)

At the game, CMU honored Crystal Bradford, Reyna Frost, Tinara Moore, Presley Hudson (CMU’s all-time leading scorer and current CMU director of player personnel) and former coach Sue Guevara in a banner ceremony, with the numbers 23, 13, 2 and 3 all getting the retirement treatment. Guevara was at Central from 12 seasons and won 231 games. Over her last four seasons at the helm, CMU WBB went a robust 100-33. Bradford, now of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream was the MAC’s player of the year in 2014, while Moore (currently a starter for Lointek Gernika Bizkaia in Spain) was player of the year in 2018 and Frost in 2019.

Meanwhile in Ypsilanti, the Eastern Michigan Eagles won their second straight game. This one against Grace Christian, where the Eagles set a program record with 133 points scored in a 133-45 victory over the GCU Tigers. Regardless of the competition, 133 points is impressive. EMU was led with 20 points from both LSU transfer Treasure Thompson and Florida transfer Danielle Rainey. A total of six Eagles scored in double, while the Eagles added 55 points off turnovers.