Brendan Bowers will be in Cleveland all week covering the MAC Tournament for CollegeHoops.net.
Upset of the Day: Ohio Bobcats beat Kent State 81 – 64
In my preview I predicted that regular season champion Kent State would ‘have no trouble with this Bobcat group’ in their opening round match-up. No sooner did I post that then did a friend of mine - an OU grad - text me the following: ‘Bowers, the odds of Kent beating OU by more than 5 are slim. Honestly, the Bobcats are very dangerous and I think they will win.’ Turns out, Kent did have a lot of trouble with this Bobcat group, and OU did win. The results of which were my feasting on crow throughout his numerous text messages during the latter stages of the game. And by a lot of trouble, I mean Kent got steam-rolled.
Armon Bassett dominated the game by way of a stat line that read 38 points and 5 rebounds as he led his OU squad to the improbable upset over the top-seeded team in the tournament – their first win in three tries against Kent this season. He had help too. Teammate DeVaughn Washington came off the bench to capitalize on the space being created by the attention paid to Bassett on the offensive end, and he went 8 for 8 from the field on his way to 19 points and 8 rebounds. With 5:26 left in the first half he caught a pass from Bassett and dunked it home to give OU a commanding 32-15 lead. From there - despite a 22-9 run by the Flashes to open the second half that cut the lead to 3 (49-46) – the Bobcats would play Kent even, and win the game by that same 17-point margin (81-64).
Kent State’s Chris Singletary led the Golden Flashes with 19 points, but struggled from the free throw line, and ended up fouling out with 2:52 left in regulation as his team trailed 70-60. Anthony Simpson scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds for Kent as well, but it wasn’t enough as their dreams of an NCAA berth ended two days before the conference title game. Kent fell to 23-9 on the season, and will be forced to settle with a berth in the NIT. The Bobcats moved to 19-14 with the win, and will face Miami tomorrow in the semis.
OU’s Armon Bassett on his production offensively: “They [Kent State] really like to get up in you and pressure you defensively and that plays into my game. I like penetrating, and I was able to get by them and really get going tonight.”
Game of the Day: Akron beats Eastern Michigan in Double OT 97-89
With 6:41 left in regulation Akron’s Chris McKnight hit a three to put Akron up by 10 (61-51) over Eastern Michigan. Five and a half minutes later, EMU’s Carlos Medlock connected on a three of his own which capped a run by the Eagles that brought them all the way back and gave them a lead of 71-69. From there, madness ensued, as if it wasn’t crazy enough already. Chris’ brother, Brett McKnight, converted a lay-up for Akron with 31 seconds left in the second half to tie it at 71, and the Zips would get one last stop as regulation expired to force OT. But it wouldn’t stop there.
The first OT looked like it would end by way of an upset after EMU’s Jay Higgins converted a triple try with 8 seconds left to give his team a lead by as many points. With one tick remaining however, Akron’s Steve McNees would express his own desire to play one more session. With no timeouts, and his team trailing by three, he pulled up on an off-balanced three with two defenders on him while drifting to his left…and he nailed it. You can call it the shot of his life, and they played another overtime.
This time, in the second OT, the Eagles just ran out of gas. Akron would get up by as many as 10 before eventually hanging on to an 8 point win. The loss should do nothing to diminish the effort by Eastern Michigan’s Carlos Medlock however, who was flat-out amazing. If a player ever has a chance to win the MVP of the tournament despite his team losing in the quarterfinals its Medlock. He played all but two minutes of the entire game – 48 total minutes – and he scored 41 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists in his final game as senior. He defined the often used cliché of leaving it all on the floor, and his epic effort was not lost on those in attendance. Teammate Brandon Bowdery kicked in 21 points and 14 rebounds as EMU closed out their season with a record of 17-15. Akron moved to 23-9 with the 97-89 victory, and was paced by McNees’ 18. Anthony “Humpty” Hitchens also scored 16 for the Zips, as they now appear the clear-cut favorite to win it with Kent State out of the way. They’ll face Western Michigan tomorrow.
Akron’s Steve McNees on his thoughts leading up to his OT three: “The first thing I thought was I was pretty disappointed he [ Higgins ] made his. I knew I had to get it [my shot] up quick, we had no timeouts. I like shooting it going to my left, so I just tried to go that way and get it up.”
Recap: Western Michigan 69 – Central Michigan 60
Central Michigan was the two-seed as the MAC quarterfinals tipped off this afternoon, and for the first half they played like it against the 7th seeded Chippewas. They held conference POY David Kool to 2 points on 0-4 shooting from the field during the first half, and at halftime, CMU led 31-22. They led by as many as 11 in the first half, and with 13:42 left in the second half they would lead by as many as 14 after Amid Rashid (14 points) hit a jumper to make the score 49-35. From that point on though, Western Michigan’s Kool played the way his name would describe, and when he hit a jumper with 4:44 in the game he’d tie the score at 54 apiece. Kool would then captain a 15-6 charge to close it out, and finish with 26 points on 7 of 15 shooting en-route to a nine point victory. Kool also had 4 rebounds and 3 assists for the game while scoring 24 points in the second half, and teammate Flenard Whitfield had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds as well. CMU was paced by Robbie Harman who scored 20 on 7 of 17 shooting from the field, and Jordan Bitzer kicked in 15 points and 4 rebounds as well in defeat. Western Michigan will play Akron in the semis on Friday.
Recap: Miami 73 – Buffalo 59
Sitting behind a contingent of Buffalo fans I never realized – until midway through the second half – just how catchy the phrase ‘let’s go Buffalo’ really is. Say it a couple times to yourself, its catchy, trust me. Nevertheless, despite the urgings from the Buffalo faithful, the Bulls wouldn’t have enough tonight in the last of four quarterfinal games at the Q. Miami led by 11 at halftime (32-21), and never allowed the Bulls to get anything going. Leading scorer Rodney Pierce was held to 2 of 8 from the field in the first half, and finished with 12. On the flip-side, Charlie Coles’ Redhawks squad was paced by fellow first- team all MAC selection - Kenny Hayes – who scored 27 and did just about anything he wanted to all night. Miami stretched the lead out to 11 (68-57) with two minutes to go, and the game was never as close as I thought it’d be. Julian Mavunga finished with 14, and Cleveland native Nick Winbush finished with 11, as Miami now readies themselves for a match-up with OU in the semis.
Friday’s Semi-Finals Match-Ups:
Akron vs. Western Michigan (Prediction: Akron)
Ohio vs. Miami (Prediction: Ohio)
My prediction record in the tournament thus far is 2-2. I’ll keep you posted going forward. For in-game updates tomorrow during the semis, follow Twitter @StepienRules.