Mid-American Conference Notebook
by Adam Trumble
The Ball State Cardinals opened the season with a third-place finish at the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska. BSU opened the tourney with a 72-64 win over Jacksonville State, led by Chris Williams’ 33 points. In the semifinal game, Williams scored 23 points and preseason All-MAC pick Theron Smith scored 15 but the Cardinals fell to Weber State 72-67.
The loss put the West Division favorite Cardinals into the third-place game against Nebraska, which was upset by the tournament host, Division II Alaska-Fairbanks. Williams led the Cardinals yet again in the third-place game, leading all scorers with 27 points and helping BSU to a 73-65 win. Smith added 13 points and the Cardinals improved to 2-1 on the season.
Big game for CMU’s big man
Before the season, Central Michigan University Head Coach Jay Smith said the success of the Chippewas revolves around how junior center Chris Kaman plays. If Kaman’s performance in the CMU’s season opener against George Mason Friday is any example the Chippewas could be pretty successful.
Kaman tied a career-high with 26 points while pulling down 10 rebounds as the Chippewas (1-0) defeated George Mason 61-58. Kaman had six rebounds at halftime and had only one until the final four minutes of the game where he was key along with the Chippewas guard play in stopping GMU on its final eight possessions. The seven-footer’s dunk with 1:14 to go was the go-ahead basket. After attempting to pass out of a double-team, the ball was deflected straight up in the air, but Kaman outjumped the George Mason defender, grabbed the ball and put it home for the game-winner.
Loss mars opening of Huskies’ new den
Northern Illinois closed Chick Evans Field House on February 23, 2002 with a victory. Nine months later, the Huskies opened the new $35.8 million Convocation Center with a disappointing 63-48 loss to Conference USA and intrastate rival DePaul. The loss dropped the Huskies to 1-2 overall after opening the season with a convincing win over Winthrop.
The Huskies have had trouble scoring points all season, putting up a season high 56 in the win against Winthrop and a loss at Wisconsin. NIU, picked fourth in the MAC West, could be struggling because of a lack of height. The Huskies are having trouble guarding other team’s centers and the Huskies tallest player is a freshman, 6-foot-10 Bryson McKenzie.
Kent’s new coach rolls to win
Defending MAC champions and Elite Eight participant last season, Kent State opened the regular season easily defeating Urbana 93-39.
The Golden Flashes were led by preseason All-MAC pick Antonio Gates, who scored a game-high 19 points. Anthony Wilkins added 12 points, while Nate Gerwig and true freshman Clif Brown scored 11 apiece for Kent.
The win was Jim Christian’s first as Kent’s head coach. He took over from Stan Heath, who now heads the Arkansas bench. The Golden Flashes forced 28 turnovers, 22 of them steals, while holding the Blue Knights to 26 percent shooting.
Players of the Week:
East Division: Marshall’s Ronald Blackshear who scored 32 points in a 92-90 win over Niagara.
West Division: Chris Kaman with his 26-point, 10-rebound performance in a win over George Mason.