This week of MAC play was characterized by high-profile matchups that led to even more shuffling in the order of the conference standings.
Squads like Kent State and Toledo enjoyed two wins and a leap up the standings, while others such as Akron could not find the winning end of games, and slid down the rankings.
There are now five spots in the standings that are hosts to two-way ties, which will only be sorted out with future weeks of MACtion.
With the dust now cleared from this week of play, just six games remain for each MAC team, making every pass, shot, and coaching decision even more critical.
T-1st — Kent State (10-2 MAC | 20-5 overall)
- 2/7: 87-64 W vs Bowling Green
- 2/10: 72-65 W @ Buffalo
After stumbling from the top spot for the first time last week, two wins have elevated Rob Senderoff’s crew back into first place, albeit tied with Toledo.
Despite a slow start to Tuesday’s game, which saw Kent State make just 12-of-31 field goals, the Golden Flashes cruised to a statement home victory against Bowling Green. This win marked Kent State’s 18th straight home victory, which dates back to last season. Malique Jacobs led the way, with 17 points, seven steals, seven assists, six rebounds, and two blocks.
Much like its performance in the Bowling Green game, Kent State struggled in the first 20 minutes against Buffalo, and trailed by six points at the half. But, through an impressive team effort and strong bench production, Kent State rallied to complete the season sweep of the Bulls. Miryne Thomas was the high-scorer with 19 points, off four made threes.
T-1st — Toledo (10-2 MAC | 19-6 overall)
- 2/7: 84-74 W @ Akron
- 2/11: 70-63 W vs EMU
The Rockets are slowly changing the narrative of their season after a 1-2 start to MAC play, and another pair of statement wins will aid in this process.
Although more renowned for its offensive prowess, Toledo executed especially well on defense to secure a significant road win against Akron. In the first half, the Rockets’ defense held the Zips to a pedestrian 28 points and 11-of-34 shooting, which allowed UT to carve out a 9-point lead that it held for the remainder of the game. Four Rockets logged 14 or more points in the victory.
Toledo’s defensive strength was also on display in its Saturday win versus Eastern Michigan. The Rockets held Emoni Bates, who scored 43 points when they last met, to only four points, and limited the Eagles to just 63 points after they had scored 90+ in their previous three games. RayJ Dennis recorded his second double-double of the season in the win.
T-3rd — Ball State (9-3 MAC | 18-7 overall)
- 2/7: 65-51 W @ CMU
- 2/11: 93-72 W vs BGSU
First-year head coach Michael Lewis continued to impress this week as he led his Cardinals to a pair of wins, extending their winning streak to five games.
Tuesday’s road outing against Central Michigan was far from Ball State’s best showing this season, but its efforts were enough to leave Mt. Pleasant with a comfortable win. The Cardinals overcame poor shooting figures and 16 turnovers by controlling the glass (BSU earned a 37-to-29 edge in rebounds), and by playing firm defense (51 points is BSU’s fewest points conceded in a MAC game all season).
The Cardinals followed up a low-scoring affair with a fast-paced dismantling of Bowling Green in front of a boisterous Worthen Arena crowd on Saturday. Ball State caught fire in the first half as it canned 17-of-27 field goals en route to a 16-point halftime lead. The Cardinals were led by Payton Sparks and Jaylin Sellers, who scored 18 points and 17 points, respectively.
T-3rd — Akron (9-3 MAC | 17-8 overall)
- 2/7: 74-84 L vs Toledo
- 2/10: 81-90 L @ Ohio
The Zips’ eight-game winning streak was snapped this week, and their two losses drop them from their first place standing last week.
In one of its most pivotal games in the 2022-23 campaign, Akron fell to the surging Toledo Rockets at the J.A.R. The Zips’ offense was stymied by the Rockets’ defensive pressure in the first half, and recorded just 28 points on 11-of-34 shooting through the first twenty minutes, which created a hole that they could not climb out of. Despite Xavier Castaneda and Trendon Hankerson’s admirable outings, the Zips dropped their first home game of the season.
John Groce was unable to direct his squad back to its winning ways on Friday, as a second half Ohio outburst sealed the loss for Akron. Although the Zips were on the losing end, Xavier Castaneda and Enrique Freeman enjoyed successful nights, with Castaneda scoring 34 points and Freeman recording a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double.
5th — Northern Illinois (7-5 MAC | 11-14 overall)
- 2/7: 76-82 L vs Ohio
- 2/11: 81-53 W vs WMU
Although the overachieving Huskies dropped a game, their performance this week maintains their spot in the top half of the conference.
Despite a near comeback in the final minutes of the game that was ignited by Kaleb Thornton, NIU dropped a close home game to Ohio on Tuesday. Although the Huskies did not commit many miscues on offense and played with consistent intensity, they could not answer the Bobcats’ success from behind the arc, as they drained 10 threes. Thornton was a bright spot all night, as he finished with 21 points, eight assists, and three steals.
Northern rediscovered its winning ways with a wire-to-wire domination of Western Michigan on Saturday. The Huskies enjoyed an advantage over the Broncos in nearly every statistical category en route to the 28-point triumph, their largest margin of victory this season. Six Huskies recorded double-digit point totals, with Zarique Nutter leading with 18 points.
T-6th — Buffalo (6-6 MAC | 12-13 overall)
- 2/7: 102-97 W vs EMU
- 2/10: 65-72 L vs Kent State
The Bulls competed in two drastically opposite styles of games this week, and also experienced two different outcomes.
UB’s Tuesday evening victory over Eastern Michigan was a fast-paced affair, with both offenses firing on all cylinders. Buffalo’s 102 points was its highest point total against a Division I opponent this season, while the 97 points it allowed is tied for the most that it has conceded all year. The Bulls emerged as the victors of the shootout due to a team scoring effort in which six players scored in double figures.
In contrast, Buffalo’s Friday loss to Kent State saw turnover-ridden offense, and far fewer baskets made as a result. The Bulls accumulated a staggering 21 turnovers, which ultimately prevented them from defeating a strong Kent State squad.
T-6th — Ohio (6-6 MAC | 14-11 overall)
- 2/7: 82-76 W @ NIU
- 2/10: 90-81 W vs Akron
After a rocky start to the conference season, Ohio recorded its first undefeated week of the year.
Tuesday evening saw the Bobcats collect a notable road victory against a Northern Illinois squad that has been tough to beat as of late. Although Ohio struggled with its ball movement and committed 17 turnovers, OU’s rebounding advantage and strong post play propelled it to victory. Jaylin Hunter led the Bobcats in scoring with 19 points, despite coming off the bench for the first time this season.
Playing in front of over 5,000 fans in the Convocation Center on Friday night, the Bobcats capped off a two-win week with a signature victory against Akron. Ohio set the nets ablaze by shooting 10-of-16 from beyond the arc, and again dominated on the glass. Like the NIU contest, Jaylin Hunter was the catalyst in this one, as he scored 25 points.
T-8th — Bowling Green (4-8 MAC | 10-15 overall)
- 2/7: 64-87 L @ Kent State
- 2/11: 72-93 L @ Ball State
The Falcons are firmly in the mix of teams that are on the bubble of advancing to the MAC tournament, and two losses this week is certainly not what Michael Huger was looking for.
Bowling Green kept Kent State within striking distance for the majority of the first half, but could not contain their offensive might in the second frame. As expected in a lopsided loss, BGSU struggled with foul issues and turnovers all night. The Falcons were called for 25 fouls, which forced them to play deeper into bench, and they accumulated 17 turnovers, which disrupted their offensive flow. Kaden Metheny still managed to record 19 points, off five made threes.
The Falcons also struggled in their Saturday afternoon road tilt against Ball State. Bowling Green fell into a 16-point deficit at halftime due to lackadaisical defensive pressure, and could not rebound in an imposing environment. Even in the 21-point loss, Samari Curtis played commendably in his time on the floor, as he recorded 20 points off 7-of-13 shooting.
T-8th — Central Michigan (4-8 MAC | 9-16 overall)
- 2/7: 51-65 L vs Ball State
- 2/11: 66-60 W @ Miami
Without the likes of Kevin Miller and Jesse Zarzuela, the Chippewas have been playing undermanned, but they showed heart with a win this week.
Given its injury-plagued roster, Central Michigan did not have enough offensive production to defeat an imposing Ball State team. The Chippewas shot just 19-of-56 from the field and 4-of-18 from deep, which limited them to a season-low 51 points. Brian Taylor contributed to the CMU cause with 20 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and a block.
The Chippewas recovered from a disappointing outing on Tuesday with an impressive win against Miami. Central trailed by 14 points in the early stages of the second half, but rallied back to collect its first MAC road victory. Playing all 40 minutes, Taylor was the catalyst behind the winning effort, as he was again the leading scorer with 22 points.
10th — Eastern Michigan (3-9 MAC | 6-19 overall)
- 2/7: 97-102 L @ Buffalo
- 2/11: 63-70 L vs Toledo
The Eagles put forth valiant efforts in both of their games this week, but they could not pull out victories, which is nothing new for the struggling squad.
Tuesday’s road game against Buffalo saw Eastern record its highest point total of the season, but it could not find the winning side of the battle due to foul trouble. The Eagles accumulated 23 fouls, which caused impactful guard Noah Farrakhan to foul out, and booked the Bulls 26 trips to the free throw line. The duo of Tyson Acuff and Emoni Bates turned in a fine performance, as they scored 35 points and 27 points, respectively.
Although fouls were not a thorn in EMU’s side against Toledo, rebounding issues certainly were. The Rockets out-rebounded the Eagles 44-to-32, which dug a hole for Stan Heath’s team. The Eagles’ rebounding woes coupled with a 2-of-17 shooting night for Emoni Bates was just enough to hand Toledo the win. Yet again, Tyson Acuff shined with 36 points.
T-11th — Miami (2-10 MAC | 8-17 overall)
- 2/7: 85-78 W vs WMU
- 2/11: 60-66 L vs CMU
Miami came into the week without a win since January 10, but it turned a page in its season with a much-needed victory.
The win that broke the seven game skid came against Western Michigan on Tuesday. The RedHawks did not shoot as well as their opponents, but they picked up the win by moving the ball efficiently, and by drawing fouls at a high rate, which allowed them to shoot 29 free throws. Anderson Mirambeaux and Mekhi Lairy put up 22 points and 21 points, respectively.
Although Miami built a lead over Central Michigan that swelled to 14 points in the second half, it could not hang on to notch another win. The RedHawks committed 28 fouls and were out-rebounded 42-22, which made winning a difficult task. Mekhi Lairy still shined in the loss, as he scored 18 points and snatched two steals.
T-11th — Western Michigan (2-10 MAC | 6-19 overall)
- 2/7: 78-85 L @ Miami
- 2/11: 53-81 L @ NIU
Dwayne Stephens and his Broncos dropped another pair of games this week, extending their losing streak to a bleak eight games.
In one of the most winnable matchups remaining on the Broncos schedule, WMU fell to Miami in a closely-contested game on Tuesday. Western Michigan succeeded on offense, shooting the ball at a more efficient clip than Miami, but its foul trouble negated its offensive success. The Broncos were whistled for 22 fouls, allowing the Redhawks to make 29 appearances at the charity stripe, which dwarfs their 12. Despite the loss, freshman Seth Hubbard scored a career-high mark, with 20 points.
The Broncos’ Tuesday outing was a commendable offensive showing that resulted in a close loss, but their Saturday road game at Northern Illinois was far from that. The Broncos struggled to put points on the board all afternoon, as they shot just 18-of-54 from the field and 5-of-26 from distance. The 28-point loss ties for WMU’s largest of the year.