This week was comparable to the Christmas season for MAC basketball fans, as several gifts came in a number of different packages.
Emoni Bates put together a mind-boggling performance in Savage Arena on Tuesday, which drew the eyes of many across the country, while Northern Illinois pulled off an unexpected upset in a shocking home win against Kent State, and Central Michigan knocked off its rival Western Michigan with a last second shot in front of a sold-out crowd armed with rolls of toilet paper.
All of these storylines and more transpired this week, making it one of the most energizing sessions of the 2022-23 season.
T-1st — Kent State (7-1 MAC | 17-4 overall)
- 1/24: 76-86 L @ NIU
- 1/27: 74-68 W vs Buffalo
Prior to this week, the Golden Flashes had handled the likes of Toledo, Ball State, and Ohio in an impressive start to league play. However, they could not get past the Northern Illinois Huskies on Tuesday. Rob Senderoff’s group could not contain NIU’s face-paced attack and strong backcourt play, and allowed the Huskies to rally to victory in the second half.
Kent State got back on track with a nationally-televised win against Buffalo on Friday. Despite a poor shooting night for the squad, Sincere Carry’s 24 points and seven assists propelled the Golden Flashes to a much needed bounce-back victory.
In addition to Carry’s notable performances, sophomore guard Jalen Sullinger continued his success off the bench. Sullinger efficiently scored 28 total points this week, despite playing 24 or fewer minutes in both games.
T-1st — Akron (7-1 MAC | 15-6 overall)
- 1/24: 73-68 W vs Miami
- 1/28: 83-77 W vs Ohio
The Akron Zips have been on a tear since Xavier Castaneda returned on January 10, and extended their hot streak this week with two wins.
Tuesday’s contest featured a hungry Miami squad that played an impressive 40 minutes of basketball, but Akron prevailed as a result of Xavier Castaneda’s efforts. Castaneda put up 32 points, making it the fourth time the senior guard surpassed the 30 point mark this season.
Saturday’s game against Ohio was another battle for the Zips, and, this time, it was Enrique Freeman who answered the call. Freeman posted his 10th double-double on the year, with 32 points and 15 rebounds.
The Zips are enjoying a six-game winning streak, and are now tied for first place in the conference.
3rd — Toledo (6-2 MAC | 15-6 overall)
- 1/24: 84-79 W vs EMU
- 1/28: 91-77 W vs BGSU
After an underwhelming 1-2 start to the MAC season, the Rockets posted their second straight two-win week, which was made possible by their fast-paced offense.
Toledo counter-punched a historic offensive onslaught by Emoni Bates on Tuesday with a balanced scoring effort. All five of the Rockets’ starters scored in double-figures, with four of them scoring 16 or more points. JT Shumate led his squad in the EMU win, with 20 points and 9 boards.
Tod Kowalczyk’s crew also kept the scoreboard operator alert in the first edition of the Battle of I-75 on Saturday. The Rockets capitalized on Bowling Green’s 16 turnovers, and scored 91 points, marking the seventh time they have surpassed 90 points this season. RayJ Dennis and Sentric Millner Jr. were tied for the leading scorer spot, as both Rockets put up 21.
4th — Ball State (5-3 MAC | 14-7 overall)
- 1/24: 65-91 L vs Buffalo
- 1/28: 87-69 W @ NIU
After a disappointing defeat at Kent State, Michael Lewis’ squad was looking to rebound with a home win on Tuesday. However, the Cardinals played perhaps their worst game of the season against Buffalo, and lost their eight-game home winning streak. Ball State was out-rebounded by 26 to 40, and conceded a season-high 91 points to the Bulls.
The Cardinals avoided a three-game skid with a wire-to-wire win at Northern Illinois on Saturday. The win was propelled by a scorching start, as the Cardinals connected on 10-of-14 three-point shots in the first half. Ball State held onto its lead for nearly the whole game, as it led for just under 38 minutes. Jarron Coleman, who combined to score 47 points this week, led his team to its fifth consecutive victory in DeKalb.
T-5th — Buffalo (4-4 MAC | 10-11 overall)
- 1/24: 91-65 W @ Ball State
- 1/27: 68-74 L @ Kent State
After dropping three of its last four, Buffalo responded in a big way to start the week.
As underdogs on the road, the Bulls dismantled a Ball State team that was previously unbeaten at home. UB jumped out to a staggering 20-3 lead in less than six minutes, and held the lead the entire game. Curtis Jones was almost impossible for the Cardinals to contain, as he scored 27, but Armoni Foster’s night was arguably more impressive. Foster scored 20 points on 8-of-8 shooting from the field, and dished out seven assists, making him the only player in the country to rack up such a statline.
The Bulls could not carry over their momentum into Friday’s clash against Kent State, as they could not find the same offensive success that led to the earlier road win. UB’s leading scorer, Curtis Jones, was held to just four points on the night, and the remainder of the team was also quiet, aside from Isaiah Adams who recorded 23 points.
T-5th — Bowling Green (4-4 MAC | 10-11 overall)
- 1/24: 83-61 W @ CMU
- 1/28: 77-91 L @ Toledo
Michael Huger’s Falcons have been inconsistent after two wins in the opening week of MAC play, and they did not find consistency this week.
On Tuesday, BSGU played some of its finest basketball of the season en route to a dominating road win at Central Michigan. The Falcons strode out to a scorching start, as they led the Chippewas 52-23 after the first 20 minutes. Bowling Green did not let up in the second, and put the home squad to rest with an efficient offensive attack and a dominating rebounding performance.
The Falcons could not follow up their wire-to-wire domination in their first game with a win on Saturday, as they fell in the basketball edition of the Battle of I-75. Although BGSU shot the ball at over 50 percent from the field, their 15 turnovers relative to Toledo’s five provided the edge that the talented Rockets squad needed to emerge victoriously. Bowling Green has lost four of the last five Battle for I-75 contests.
T-5th — Northern Illinois (4-4 MAC | 8-13 overall)
- 1/24: 86-76 W vs Kent State
- 1/28: 69-87 L vs Ball State
The biggest upset of the young MAC season came on Tuesday evening, as Rashon Burno’s Huskies defeated the highly-touted Kent State Golden Flashes. NIU outscored Kent State by 13 in the second half to secure the victory, and was propelled by strong guard play. David Coit scored a career-high 32 points, and Kaleb Thornton posted a rare double-double with 13 points and 11 assists.
Despite riding high off Tuesday’s upset and a three-game winning streak, the Huskies fell to Ball State on Saturday. NIU’s loss can be attributed to its lackluster ball control, which led to 16 turnovers, and its inability to box out the Cardinals’ bigs, which led to 20 BSU offensive rebounds.
T-8th — Ohio (3-5 MAC | 11-10 overall)
- 1/24: 88-76 W vs WMU
- 1/28: 77-83 L @ Akron
Through its first few weeks in conference play, Ohio has won nearly all of the games that it arguably should have won, but has struggled in games against the MAC’s elite. This week was no exception.
The Bobcats took advantage of a home game against a stumbling Western Michigan squad on Tuesday, and won as a result of a late-game push. However, OU’s efforts against a physically-imposing Akron team were not enough, as it dropped yet another test against a top team in the league.
Dwight Wilson III manufactured another outstanding week for the green and white. The Tallahassee product recorded a 31-point, 11-rebound double-double against WMU, and scored 14 points versus Akron in an outing that was cut short due to foul trouble.
T-8th — Central Michigan (3-5 MAC | 8-13 overall)
- 1/24: 61-83 L vs BGSU
- 1/28: 70-69 W vs WMU
The Chippewas enjoyed a historic week of action, but it began with a 20-point loss at home on Tuesday. En route to the loss, Central was out-rebounded by Bowling Green 23 to 41, and was also bested by the Falcons in the field goal and three-point percentages. This made for CMU’s second straight 20-point loss, as it fell by 28 the previous Saturday at Ohio.
Following Tuesday’s disappointment, the Chippewas hosted their rival Western Michigan Broncos for their “toilet paper toss” game, which entailed rolls of toilet paper being hurled onto the court prior to tip-off. The record-breaking crowd of 5,425 fans who took part in the toss enjoyed a comeback win for their Chippewas. A clutch Brian Taylor three-pointer with five seconds left would clinch the rivalry win after trailing by 11 with 4:07 remaining.
T-10th — Western Michigan (2-6 MAC | 6-15 overall)
- 1/24: 76-88 L @ Ohio
- 1/28: 69-70 L @ CMU
The Broncos won both of their games during the second week of conference action, but they have since been searching for the same winning ways.
Western could not contain Ohio’s Dwight Wilson III in Tuesday’s road loss, as it let the senior forward rack up 31 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Wilson III was a force that neither Markeese Hastings, nor Titus Wright could stop, which led to the Broncos’ demise. Saturday's rivalry game at Central was in WMU’s control, but it let an 11-point lead with 4:07 remaining slip away.
Lamar Norman Jr., the MAC’s fifth most prolific scorer, shined this week, as he scored 20 points against Ohio, and 27 versus Central.
T-10th — Eastern Michigan (2-6 MAC | 5-16 overall)
- 1/24: 79-84 L @ Toledo
- 1/28: 74-69 W @ Miami
This week marked another pedestrian string of games for the Eagles, but Emoni Bates’ performance in Tuesday’s contest at Toledo was far from ordinary. In the hard fought loss, Bates scored a career-high 43 points off of nine made threes (second most in EMU history), and grabbed seven rebounds. En route to his historic night, Bates, by himself, rattled off 29 straight points for his squad. He scored every point for the Eagles over the final 13:18 of the first half.
Following Bates’ dominating performance, the Eagles picked up just their second MAC win in Saturday’s matchup at Miami. Noah Farrakhan, Eastern’s second leading scorer, led the team to victory with 20 points in his limited 24 minutes of action. This was EMU’s first win in Oxford since 2018.
12th — Miami (1-7 MAC | 7-14 overall)
- 1/24: 68-73 L @ Akron
- 1/28: 69-74 L vs EMU
Travis Steele’s RedHawks dropped both of its MAC contests for the second straight week. Despite Miami’s woes, it performed admirably in both games, and fell by small margins.
Tuesday’s contest against Akron was closely-contested throughout all 40 minutes played, and the RedHawks trailed by just two points with 1:20 remaining in the second half. And, Saturday’s home outing against Eastern was also close, as there were seven lead changes and six ties in the game. Senior guard Mekhi Lairy was the catalyst behind Miami’s strong efforts, as he led the team in scoring in both games, with a combined 39 points for the week.
Close losses have been a trend for the struggling RedHawks, as three of their last four losses have been decided by five points or less.