The matchups in the second-to-last week of MAC play pitted several closely-ranked teams against one another, which greatly impacted the look of the conference standings.
A matchup between two of the league’s upper echelon programs, Ball State and Kent State, resulted in the losing Golden Flashes freeing up first place for another MAC power.
Hard-fought games among the group of teams vying for the final spot in the conference tournament have left a three-way tie for eighth place.
This week also saw teams in the middle of the conference standings earn pivotal wins that their clinched postseason appearances.
The changes in the MAC basketball landscape after this week sets the stage for an intriguing final stretch of games.
1st — Toledo (14-2 MAC | 23-6 overall)
- 2/21: 84-63 W vs Akron
- 2/25: 101-71 W vs Buffalo
Tod Kowalczyk’s Rockets saw their winning streak grow to 13 games with two statement triumphs this week, giving them sole possession of the MAC’s top spot for the first time this season.
Toledo opened its week with the second game of its season series with Akron. The Rockets traded punches with the Zips for the opening minutes, but a 12-0 Toledo run midway through the first half allowed it to build a 13-point halftime lead. Toledo did not waver in the second frame, which handed it a crucial victory. The Rockets’ 21-point edge is tied for its largest margin of victory versus an Akron squad since 2001. Seniors Setric Millner Jr. and JT Shumate each enjoyed 20-point nights.
The Rockets capped off its slate with an another dominating win versus Buffalo on Saturday. Toledo cruised offensively all afternoon as it canned 39-of-66 field goals and 13-of-23 3-point attempts. The squad’s offensive success allowed it to lead for nearly 35 minutes, and led it to its second-highest single-game point total against Buffalo in the series’ history. Dante Maddox Jr.’s 18 points led an effort which featured six Rockets in double figures.
2nd — Kent State (13-3 MAC | 23-6 overall)
- 2/21: 70-82 L @ Ball State
- 2/25: 79-69 W @ BGSU
The Golden Flashes, who continue to play without junior guard Giovanni Santiago, dropped down from their first-place ranking after splitting their pair of games this week.
Looking to sweep the season series, Kent State met Ball State on Tuesday evening. The Golden Flashes enjoyed a one-point halftime edge, but it could not hang on for the road win due to issues with foul trouble. Kent State was whistled for 24 fouls on the night, which forced it to play deeper into its bench, and booked 34 trips to the free throw line for Ball State. Appearing in all 40 minutes, Sincere Carry led the Golden Flashes’ effort with 21 points and six rebounds.
Rob Senderoff led his squad to a bounce-back road win against Bowling Green on Saturday, although it did not come as easily as many projected. The Golden Flashes opened the game with uncharacteristic miscues on offense, and trailed the Falcons for the majority of the first half. Despite the slow start, a spark from the bench (27 bench points) gave Kent State the win. Malique Jacobs shined in the win as he posted 19 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
3rd — Akron (12-4 MAC | 20-9 overall)
- 2/21: 63-84 L @ Toledo
- 2/25: 81-64 W vs WMU
The Zips saw their hopes of capturing a MAC regular season title slip away this week with a loss in a must-win matchup. They remain in third place, however, due to favorable results across the league.
Akron entered its Tuesday matchup at Toledo looking for a win that would keep it in the conference title conversation. Instead, it suffered it largest loss of the season. The Rockets jumped out to a 24-11 advantage, and did not once let the Zips control the lead. Akron’s blowout loss can be attributed to its struggles at the charity stripe (7-of-14) and from beyond the arc (4-of-21). Enrique Freeman was the lone bright spot for Akron as he scored 18 points and hauled in nine rebounds.
John Groce’s team responded to its Tuesday loss with a well-executed home victory versus Western Michigan. Although the lead changed hands over the first 15 minutes, sizable Akron runs at the end of the first half and opening minutes of the second put the game out of reach. Akron’s ball movement was a key in its win, sporting an impressive 22-to-5 assist-to-turnover ratio. Xavier Castaneda led all scorers with 23 points.
4th — Ball State (11-5 MAC | 20-9 overall)
- 2/21: 82-70 W vs Kent State
- 2/25: 68-75 L @ EMU
Michael Lewis collected the most impressive victory of his young head coaching career on Tuesday, but a disappointing loss on Saturday keeps them in the fourth-place position.
Ball State opened its week against Kent State, a team which defeated them by 21 points in mid-January. The first half saw little offense, with both shooting under 41 percent from the field, but the Golden Flashes found their way to a one-point lead at the half. The Cardinals made up their halftime deficit and then some, as their 17-of-27 shooting propelled them to outscore Kent State 50-37 in the second half. Jaylin Sellers’s 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half, gave Ball State the burst that it needed to capture the statement win.
Without Payton Sparks, who sustained an injury in Tuesday’s game, the Ball State traveled to battle Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Its outing against the Eagles was a near opposite of its Tuesday win. The Cardinals carried a 10-point lead into halftime, but squandered their advantage in the second half as a result of offensive struggles and rebounding woes. The shorthanded Cardinals were led by senior guard Demarius Jacobs, whose 19 points, five assists, and four steals kept his team in the game.
5th — Ohio (9-7 MAC | 17-12 overall)
- 2/21: 77-68 W vs NIU
- 2/25: 68-85 L @ Miami
Ohio punched its ticket to the conference tournament with a much-needed victory on Tuesday, and is still riding its wave of momentum, despite a loss this week.
With just one spot separating the Ohio and Northern Illinois in the standings, the Bobcats’ Tuesday evening win was monumental. Jeff Boals’s team emerged victoriously as a result of its strong defensive performance. The Bobcats snatched six steals and rejected four shots, while also holding the Huskies to a mere 1-of-19 three-point shooting mark. As has been the case all season, Dwight Wilson III was a force for the green and white as he notched a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double.
The Bobcats could not extend its winning streak against Miami on Saturday, as it dropped the second installment of this year’s Battle of the Bricks. Despite a quality display of defense, which featured 10 steals and five blocks, the Bobcats’ second-half offensive struggles hindered them from capturing the rivalry win. In a game which saw Ohio shoot just 24-of-63 from the field, Jaylin Hunter and Wilson III both managed to post 19-point nights.
6th — Northern Illinois (8-8 MAC | 12-17 overall)
- 2/21: 68-77 L @ Ohio
- 2/25: 84-80 W @ CMU
Despite a loss early in the week, the Huskies’ Saturday victory cemented their spot in the MAC tournament. This will be Northern’s first appearance in the tournament since 2019.
The Huskies opened this week’s slate with a tough loss to Ohio, a team that sat just one place above them in standings. Both squads were locked in a close battle for the duration of the game, but Northern’s inability to match Ohio’s offensive blows late in the second half cost it the game. The Huskies’ offense struggled all night, shooting especially bleak clips from deep (1-of-19) and at the free throw line (9-of-19). Five Huskies scored in double figures, with Darweshi Hunter’s 17 points leading the way.
Northern’s matchup with Central Michigan was also pivotal as the Chippewas ranked just two spots below them in last week’s standings. Rashon Burno led his squad to the much-needed win, although it was not without difficulty as a late Chippewa run nearly sunk the Huskies’ early 17-point lead. Efficient and balanced offensive production paved the way for the NIU win. The attack was headlined by the backcourt duo of Kaleb Thornton and Zarique Nutter, who each scored 21 points.
7th — Buffalo (7-9 MAC | 13-16 overall)
- 2/21: 63-35 W vs CMU
- 2/25: 71-101 L @ Toledo
Buffalo was unable to book its trip to Cleveland, as it split this week’s slate of games. Jim Whitesell’s team will need a strong finish from his unit to secure its postseason fate.
The Bulls’ home matchup against Central Michigan on Tuesday saw arguably the most dreadful combined offensive performance of the season. A bleak 37-of-110 field goals were made by both sides, and they combined to accumulate 35 turnovers. The Bulls still managed to defend home court in the rock fight due to its edge from beyond the arc. Curtis Jones continued his strong campaign by logging 14 points, which led all scorers.
Buffalo enjoyed a more productive offensive outing against Toledo on Saturday, but it was at the expense of defensive efficiency. The Bulls’ defense was exploited by the Rockets’ quick offensive attack, conceding a season-high 101 points. Although Buffalo trailed for all but a few minutes, Laquill Hardnett and Zid Powell efficiently scored 20 points, each.
T-8th — Miami (5-11 MAC | 11-18 overall)
- 2/21: 74-65 W vs BGSU
- 2/25: 85-68 W vs Ohio
Travis Steele has quietly flipped the narrative in Oxford. Miami’s two wins this week have it on the cusp of a trip to Cleveland, a feat which seemed unlikely after its 1-9 start.
The RedHawks’ started their successful week with a home matchup against Bowling Green on Tuesday. Miami experienced difficulties finding the bottom of the net in the first half, which led to a 26-29 halftime deficit. The RedHawks returned to the floor playing more efficient offense in the second half, with a focus on scoring in the paint, which lifted them above the Falcons. Miami’s most formidable presence down low was Anderson Mirambeaux, whose 24 points and eight rebounds led his team.
On Saturday, Steele led his squad to its third-consecutive win in its rivalry game versus Ohio. The first half of the Battle of the Bricks was closely contested, featuring eight lead changes and four ties, but the Redhawks’ second-half dismantling of the Bobcats gave them the win. Miami outscored the visitors by 15 points, and knocked down 15 of its 23 field goal attempts in the second frame. Mekhi Lairy and Morgan Safford each put in commendable efforts, scoring 26 and 24 points, respectively.
T-8th — Central Michigan (5-11 MAC | 10-19 overall)
- 2/21: 35-63 L @ Buffalo
- 2/25: 80-84 L vs NIU
The shorthanded Chippewas’ inability to capture wins in their games this week prevented any upward movement in their ranking, making their final week even more critical.
Central Michigan’s disappointing week opened with a poor showing on the road against Buffalo. The Chippewas struggled mightily on the offensive end, which resulted in abysmal team statistics: 35 total points, a 14-of-47 clip from the field, zero made 3s, and a 7-to-23 assist-to-turnover ratio. These figures prevented CMU from capturing a win that would have changed the course of its regular season.
The Chippewas appeared to be in for another crushing defeat as they trailed 29-47 at halftime in their Saturday outing against Northern Illinois. However, Central Michigan mounted a strong second half comeback, and cut the Huskies’ lead to five points with just over 2 minutes remaining. Despite Tony Barbee’s squad’s late-game heroics, it eventually fell as a result of clutch offensive plays by Northern Illinois. Freshman Reggie Bass was the catalyst behind the comeback as he exploded for a career-high 40 points.
T-8th — Eastern Michigan (5-11 MAC | 8-21 overall)
- 2/21: 66-59 W vs WMU
- 2/25: 75-68 W vs Ball State
Stan Heath’s Eagles brought their season back to life this week, as their pair of wins leave them within striking distance of qualifying for the conference tournament.
Avenging a January loss, Eastern’s first two-win week of the season began with a victory over its rival Western Michigan. The Eagles clawed back from trailing by 10 points early in the first half to win a tight game. EMU captured the win at the charity stripe as its 16 made free throw attempts dwarfed the Broncos’ five. Emoni Bates led the way as he posted 17 points and seven rebounds.
The Eagles rode their momentum from Tuesday’s win to capture its most impressive victory on the season against Ball State on Saturday. Eastern’s slow start resulted in a 10-point halftime deficit, but it overcame its first-half woes by unraveling the Cardinals’ defense in the second half. Bates was again the driving force behind his team’s second half surge, as he scored 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half alone.
11th — Bowling Green (4-12 MAC | 10-19 overall)
- 2/21: 65-74 L @ Miami
- 2/25: 69-79 L vs Kent State
The Falcons, currently on a nine-game skid, continued their slide down the MAC standings with two losses this week. Michael Huger’s team is now dangerously close to missing the MAC tournament.
Bowling Green saw its week begin with a loss to an ascending Miami squad on Tuesday. The Falcons lacked the production from its starters that it needed to hold off the RedHawks’ second-half burst. Bowling Green’s starting five combined to score just 37 points off 12-of-35 shooting, which forced Huger to rely more heavily on his bench. One of the Falcons’ bench players, Samari Curtis, led the squad in scoring with 17 points.
Although the Falcons did not have much momentum heading into Saturday’s home game against Kent State, they opened the contest with one of their best halves of the season. The first frame saw Bowling Green play poised offense, making 12-of-23 two-point field goals, en route to a five-point halftime lead. However, the wheels came out from under the Falcons in the second half as Kent State’s physicality proved to be too much. Bowling Green did not have one particular star in the loss as Chandler Turner and Curtis tied for the team-high with 11 points.
12th — Western Michigan (3-13 MAC | 7-22 overall)
- 2/21: 59-66 L @ EMU
- 2/25: 64-81 L @ Akron
Desperately needing to add games to the win column to save their season, the Broncos’ two losses this week make the remainder of their season purely academic.
Western Michigan squared off against its in-state foe Eastern Michigan in its first game of the week. The Broncos looked poised to complete the season sweep against their rival, storming out to an early 10-point lead, but Western’s offensive struggles allowed the Eagles to complete a comeback effort. The Broncos shot 23-of-58 overall, and did not find their way to the free throw line at a high rate, attempting just nine free throws on the night. Broncos guard Lamar Norman Jr. led his team in the loss, notching 18 points.
Western later traveled to the J.A.R. for a Saturday showdown against Akron. Despite the Broncos’ success on the glass, its offensive woes again hindered their pursuit of a win. Dwayne Stephens’s crew shot an unremarkable clip from the field (22-of-59), and struggled moving the ball efficiently with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. In the Broncos’ eleventh loss in its last twelve games, Lamar Norman Jr. led the squad in scoring with 17 points.