We are now reaching the part of the MAC season where we start to find what teams are really made of and who we can expect to compete for the title.
The storylines last week centered around Kent State’s continued early dominance of the conference as they won their two games convincingly. Their northeast Ohio counterpart also impressed, as Akron took control of the second spot in the conference.
On the flip side of that was a tough week for several teams including all three that reside in the state of Michigan.
Within the week’s games came many impressive individual performances including a number from bench players.
1st — Kent State (6-0 MAC | 16-3 overall)
- 1/17: 77-63 W @ EMU
- 1/20: 86-65 W vs Ball State
Rob Senderoff’s Golden Flashes took another massive leap toward cementing themselves as the MAC frontrunners with two impressive wins.
On Tuesday, Kent State used a balanced offensive attack to knock off Emoni Bates and the Eastern Michigan Eagles. In this road victory, five Golden Flashes, including Jalen Sullinger off the bench, scored in double figures. Playing in front of a “blackout” crowd on Friday night in the marquee match-up versus Ball State, Kent State easily controlled the lead for all 40 minutes. The 21-point rout of the Cardinals was the largest MAC win for Kent State this season.
The MAC leaders are currently riding a 10-game winning streak, which ties them for the third longest active streak in the country. Like last week, the Golden Flashes received attention in the most recent AP poll, earning 24 votes.
2nd — Akron (5-1 MAC | 13-6 overall)
- 1/17: 69-51 W @ CMU
- 1/21: 63-55 W @ WMU
Despite a slow week offensively from star forward Enrique Freeman, the Zips took care of business with a pair of victories on the road in Michigan. Tuesday’s victory over Central Michigan saw a great defensive performance as they held the Chippewas to only eight made two point field goals and a 34 percent shooting rate overall. On Saturday, Akron played a much tighter game with Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, but pulled away late as Xavier Castaneda finished with 32 points — his third 30 point game this season.
T-3rd — Ball State (4-2 MAC | 13-6 overall)
- 1/17: 71-70 W vs WMU
- 1/20: 65-86 L @ Kent State
Ball State did not look like the best versions of themselves as they scraped by Western Michigan at home on Tuesday and got blown out by Kent State at the Convocation Center on Friday.
During Tuesday’s victory, the Cardinals found themselves down by two with less than a minute to go but Mickey Pearson’s late three point play gave them a one-point victory. On Friday, Ball State shot poorly from the field and lost the turnover battle big as the Golden Flashes soared past them.
T-3rd — Toledo (4-2 MAC | 13-6 overall)
- 1/17: 90-75 W vs Ohio
- 1/20: 86-77 W @ Buffalo
Toledo made great strides in conference play with high scoring wins over Ohio at home and Buffalo on the road. The Rockets, who have often been a threat from behind the arc under Tod Kowalczyk, shot 12-of-23 from three on Tuesday and a respectable 9-of-23 on Friday. They lead the conference in both three point percentage (38.4) and points per game (84.9)
RayJ Dennis was a standout performer for Toledo tallying 46 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists on efficient shooting over the two games.
T-5th — Buffalo (3-3 MAC | 9-10 overall)
- 1/17: 100-71 W vs BGSU
- 1/20: 77-86 L vs Toledo
Buffalo had an up and down week at home as they blew out Bowling Green before losing a shootout to Toledo. The Bulls hit the century mark on Tuesday behind 27 points from Zid Powell as the team outran the Falcons. They failed to slow down Toledo’s offense on Friday in a game that was closer than the score. Laquill Hardnett was able to provide a spark from the bench putting up 18 points and 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
T-5th — Bowling Green (3-3 MAC | 9-10 overall)
- 1/17: 71-100 L @ Buffalo
- 1/21: 83-73 W vs Miami
The Falcons also went 1-1 on the week with a loss at Buffalo and a win on their home floor against Miami. The loss against the Bulls put them out of the top four in the MAC but they were able to bounce back against the Redhawks. The win was made possible by 31 points from Leon Ayers who is having a fine season averaging 18.4 per game.
T-5th — Northern Illinois (3-3 MAC | 7-12 overall)
- 1/17: 81-77 W @ Miami
- 1/21: 88-67 W @ EMU
Northern Illinois had a much needed undefeated week after having just one conference win prior. They defeated Miami in Oxford on Tuesday in a game where they opened up a double digit lead in the second half and did enough to hold on for the victory.
Four starters finished in double figures with guard David Coit totaling 21. Saturday’s matchup at Eastern Michigan saw the Huskies shoot nearly 60 percent from the field as they built a big lead early and pulled away. Coit put in another good shift with 24 points in Ypsilanti.
T-8th — Ohio (2-4 MAC | 10-9 overall)
- 1/17: 75-90 L @ Toledo
- 1/21: 96-68 W vs CMU
Jeff Boals’ squad has had a subpar season so far sitting just one game above .500 overall and now 2-4 in the MAC.
After a loss on Tuesday where they allowed points in droves to Toledo, they were able to bounce back in a big way against a struggling Central Michigan team during the weekend. The three-point differential was the story in that game, as they made 10 more three-point shots than the Chippewas, giving them nearly a 30 point cushion in the end. Miles Brown was the star, scoring a season-high 27 points helped by six threes.
T-8th — Central Michigan (2-4 MAC | 7-12 overall)
- 1/17: 51-69 L vs Akron
- 1/21: 68-96 L @ Ohio
The Chippewas failed to look threatening in either of their losses to Akron and Ohio, falling further down the MAC standings as a result.
They shot the ball poorly in both games and did not do enough defensively to stay in either of them. They are dead last in just about every offensive category and it is looking like their 2-2 start in conference play was not a great predictor of where they’ll end up. This is still a rebuilding team under second-year coach Tony Barbee, and they’ll have to take their lumps as the system develops.
T-8th — Western Michigan (2-4 MAC | 6-13 overall)
- 1/17: 70-71 L @ Ball State
- 1/21: 55-63 L vs Akron
Western Michigan didn’t play entirely poorly against two of the top MAC teams but failed to pull out a win in either game. On Tuesday, they lost a heartbreaker to Ball State as they failed to cling onto a two point lead late. They couldn’t hack Akron’s tough defense at home on Saturday, as they shot just 38.2 percent from the field and lost the turnover battle by 13.
T-11th — Miami (1-5 MAC | 7-12 overall)
- 1/17: 77-81 L vs NIU
- 1/21: 73-83 L @ BGSU
Miami had another tough week, losing to Northern Illinois and Bowling Green. Despite the losses, the Redhawks saw positive outputs from forward Anderson Mirambeaux and guard Morgan Safford in both games. If those two can stay hot along with Miami’s PPG leader Mekhi Larry, they could gain some positive momentum.
T-11th — Eastern Michigan (1-5 MAC | 4-15 overall)
- 1/17: 63-77 L vs Kent State
- 1/21: 67-88 L vs NIU
Fans of Michigan MAC teams are not happy right now.
The Eagles failed to pick up a win in either of their home matchups, which put their home state 0-6 for the week in the conference. After a tight first half with conference leading Kent State, they couldn’t hang around in the second half.
On Saturday, Eastern Michigan came out flat and couldn’t get any momentum against Northern Illinois. After an efficient 24-point performance in the loss to the Golden Flashes, Emoni Bates couldn’t replicate it against the Huskies, hitting just two field goals. Guard Noah Farrakhan did put up the best individual scoring performance from a bench player in the MAC this week with 26 points on his ledger, a bright spot on an otherwise dreary season.