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Mid-American Notebook

December 17, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-American Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Speer

For years, Buffalo has been the MAC’s running joke. A team that has resided in the conference’s basement since joining in 1998, the Bulls were the closest thing to a sure win.

And it appeared it would stay that way upon this season’s commencement. The squad dropped its first three games in typical Buffalo fashion.

But as the harsh winter cools western New York down, the Bulls have begun to heat up. With recent victories, Buffalo now has won four consecutive games.

They snapped a 23-game road losing streak against Colgate and quelled the nation’s third-leading offense against Niagara.

Led by All-MAC candidate Turner Battle, Buffalo has got contributions from a number of sources. Forward Mark Bortz has developed into a reliable scorer and one of the MAC’s best shot blockers. Mario Jordan has stepped up to be a hot wing shooter. And Morocco native Yassin Idbihi has surprised to be a tough inside presence. Factor in veterans Daniel Gilbert, Jason Bird and B.J. Walker, and the Bulls may be the last one’s laughing.

Tough go for favorites

It has been a rough early season for teams predicted to finish in the MAC’s upper echelon.

Nowhere has this been more obvious than at Bowling Green, where the Falcons have dropped five straight to start the season 2-5.

BGSU was picked to finish second in the MAC West, but an early-season injury to forward John Reimold has hurt the team’s continuity. Things have gotten so bad that coach Dan Dakich took his frustrations out on the officiating following a loss to IPFW and was reprimanded by the conference.

Miami, Akron and Northern Illinois also were picked to finish high, but have been up and down. Akron is 3-2, while NIU and Miami are 3-3.

No more unbeatens

The conference’s final two unbeaten teams, Toledo and Kent State, both fell this week. The Rockets were dumped by Detroit, the same team that handed Western Michigan its only loss of the season.

Kent State struggled mightily in a Sunday loss at Rhode Island. The Rockets and Golden Flashes join WMU as the MAC’s only teams with one loss.

Player of the Week:

Buffalo G Turner Battle

He no longer is just a good player playing on a bad team. Everyone around the MAC knows Battle’s skill and he put it on display during two Buffalo wins this week.

Against Niagara, he nailed the game winning shot to punctuate his 21 points, eight assists and five steals. And against Colgate, Battle led the team with 18 points.

MAC East Capsules

Kent State Golden Flashes

Record: 4-1, 1-0
Last Week: Rhode Island L 60-49
This Week: Cleveland State; at Boston College

John Edwards etched his name in school history, surpassing John Wharton as KSU”s all-time leading shot blocker with three swats against the Rams.

The senior led the Flashes with 18 points and seven rebounds in the game. In the ugly game, the teams combined to shoot just 35 percent from the field and commit 35 turnovers.

Akron Zips

Record: 3-2, 0-0
Last Week: at North Carolina L 64-53
This Week: Duquesne; at Cleveland State

Last season’s three leading scorers combined to go just 4-of-25 shooting for nine points in the loss to the Tar Heels.

MAC leading scorer Derrick Tarver was held to just seven points on 3-of-16 shooting while guard Johnny Hollingsworth was limited to two points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Senior Andy Hipsher, who has underwent two back surgeries in the past year, was 0-of-2 in just 14 minutes of action.

Buffalo Bulls

Record: 4-3, 1-0
Last Week: at Colgate W 72-49; at Niagara W 81-79
This Week: Robert Morris; at Farleigh Dickinson

Niagara came into the game 4-0 and averaging 95 points a game, but the Bulls improved defense slowed the Purple Eagles down. Bortz followed Battle’s performance with a season-high 19 points. Buffalo has forced 18.5 turnovers over the past two games.

Marshall Thundering Herd

Record 3-3, 1-0
Last Week: Northern Illinois W 85-76
This Week: at U Mass

After serving as a role player the past couple seasons, junior Ronny Dawn is stepping up in a big way. The slick-shooting guard is leading the team in scoring and netted 16 points in the team’s home victory against NIU.

A.W. Hamilton continues to serve as the conference’s best true point guard, tallying 11 assists, 0 turnovers and seven rebounds against the Huskies. Marvin Black has been again reliable, collecting 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Miami RedHawks

Record: 3-3, 0-1
Last Week: Xavier L 55-36; Wright State W 76-61
This Week: vs SMU; vs Purdue/IPFW

Against the Musketeers, Miami was held to under 40 points for the second consecutive game. The RedHawks shot 36 percent in their worst home loss in two years.

The team bounced back against the Raiders, busting out for 54 second half points. Chet Mason led the way with 19 points, including nine during a crucial 17-2 second half run. Juby Johnson and Tim Schenke added 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Ohio Bobcats

Record: 2-6, 0-1
Last Week: DePaul L 63-60; at San Francisco L 53-46
This Week: at Navy

Ohio’s struggles continued in two losses. The Bobcats have struggled to find a consistent go-to scorer as potential candidates Jaivon Harris, Jeff Halbert and Delvar Barrett have been streaky.

The team played the Blue Demons tough, but could not pull it out in the end. Harris had a career-high 23 points. In San Francisco, Ohio could not overcome a 21-4 early deficit.

MAC West Capsules

Toledo Rockets

Record: 4-1, 1-0
Last Week: at Detroit L 72-68; at Siena W 95-71
This Week: at De Paul

The Rockets dropped their first game to a tough Detroit team, who has now won 35 consecutive non-conference games at Calihan Hall.

UT’s backcourt of Keith Triplett and Sammy Villegas has emerged as the MAC’s best. Villegas has reached double-figures in six straight games while Triplett is Toledo’s leading scorer. The two combined for 40 points in the Siena victory. Justin Ingram and Ricardo Thomas also have stepped up to provide a scoring punch for the Rockets.

Western Michigan Broncos

Record: 3-1, 1-0
Last Week: Fordham W 88-67
This Week: at UAB; at Loyola

Western’s experienced trio of Mike Williams, Anthony Kann and Ben Reed got it done against the Rams. Williams led the way with 27 points while Kann had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Reed chipped in 16.

Sophomore Brian Snider has taken well to his starting role, and had 10 points and six assists in the game. The Broncos will be challenged with a pair of road games this week.

Ball State Cardinals

Record: 3-2, 0-0
Last Week: Anderson W 83-48; at Indiana State L 66-65
This Week: at IUPUI

Despite having the ball with 13 seconds left, Ball State could not get off a shot attempt in the one-point loss to the Sycamores.

Coach Tim Buckley grumbled about his team’s poor defensive performance in the loss, despite a late-game rally. Skip Mills had 13 points while Cameron Echols and Robert Owens each had 10.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Record: 3-3, 0-1
Last Week: at Marshall L 85-76
This Week: vs. San Jose State; vs. BYU/Hawaii

Marshall’s Henderson Center again proved why it is one of the toughest places to play at in the MAC as the Herd knocked off the preseason favorites.

All-MAC forward Marcus Smallwood was held below his average with just eight points and eight rebounds. Smallwood was 2-of-12 shooting. P.J. Smith had 17 points while Rome Sanders stepped off the bench to contribute 15 points.

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Record: 3-4, 0-1
Last Week: Albion W 81-60
This Week: No games Scheduled

It was an easy week in Ypsilanti, with a blowout victory against Albion. JaQuan Hart had a season-high 17 points and five assists.

Forward James Jackson kept up his strong early-season play with 19 points and 12 rebounds. After averaging four points and four boards a year ago, Jackson leads the team in both categories.

Central Michigan Chippewas

Record: 2-5, 0-0
Last Week: vs Purdue L 80-39
This Week: at Michigan

CMU suffered a hangover following an upset victory against Notre Dame, suffering its worst loss in 17 years.

Stifled by Purdue’s intense defense, the Chippewas shot 22 percent from the field, committed 24 turnovers and were blocked nine times. Point guard T.J. Meerman continues to be plagued with foul trouble, as he committed four fouls in the first half and did not play the rest of the game.

Bowling Green Falcons

Record: 2-5, 0-1
Last Week: at IPFW L 81-75; at Michigan L 74-57
This Week: Detroit

Besides the outstanding play of Ronald Lewis, about the only other positive for the Falcons has been the emergence of freshman Austin Montgomery.

The sharpshooter had 14 points against IPFW and 18 against the Wolverines. He has been a steady performer throughout the team’s first seven games.


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