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Mid-American Notebook

December 30, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Mid-American Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Speer

Toledo and Western Michigan are proving there are two differing ways to get to the top of the MAC. Heading into the Holiday season, the success Rockets (6-1) and Broncos (5-1) are the biggest stories in the conference.

Toledo, a run and gun team spearheaded by its backcourt duo of Keith Triplett and Sammy Villegas, has reached its perch with a MAC-leading 80.5 points per game. The Rockets lead the MAC in both field goal shooting and three-point percentage, both of which were on display in recent victories against De Paul and Wright State.

Western, in contrast, has used grinding defense to shut down its opponents. The Broncos already have major-conference victories against USC, UAB and Fordham this season, and has taken to new coach Steve Hawkins’ intense defensive system. When need be, Western can score as well, led by junior marksman Ben Reed, who is leading the NCAA in three-point percentage (64 percent).

While the likes of Northern Illinois, Miami and Bowling Green were touted as the MAC’s best in the preseason, it is the Broncos and Rockets have flown under the radar as West Division favorites heading into the brunt of the MAC schedule.

Northern heading south

The struggles of Northern Illinois are as puzzling as any MAC story. The team has two All-MAC players in Marcus Smallwood and P.J. Smith, as well as what seemed like a solid supporting cast. But after three consecutive losses in Hawaii, including one to Division II opponent BYU-Hawaii, the Huskies are now 4-6.

The team has struggled to find its niche and has been plagued with inconsistency. Smallwood, Smith and long-range gunner Todd Peterson all have had strong games, but seldom do they come on the same night.

If coach Rob Judson is to meet expectations, he must right NIU’s ship quickly heading into conference play.

Player of the Week:

WMU G Ben Reed

Junior Ben Reed has defied odds to return to the MAC’s spotlight. The MAC’s Freshman of the Year two seasons ago, Reed severely injured his knee in the offseason heading into his sophomore year. He made a remarkable comeback, missing little court action. While he did play, Reed struggled last season, seeming a step closer and a bit more gun-shy than he was before.

This season, Reed has been anything but gun-shy. Having drilled 18-of-28 three-pointers (64 percent), Reed leads the NCAA in three-point percentage and is a main reason the Broncos are sitting atop the MAC.

In recent victories against UAB and Loyola-Chicago, Reed averaged 18 points. He is the team’s second leading scorer (16 ppg), behind MAC leader Mike Williams (20.5 ppg).

MAC East Capsules

Akron Zips (5-2, 0-0)

Last Week: Duquense W 64-61; at Cleveland State W 61-59
This Week: Wright State

While Akron returned a multitude of experience to the lineup this season, coach Dan Hipsher has been pleasantly surprised with the development of the MAC’s best freshman class.

Forward Jeremiah Wood has stepped into a starting role and has not disappointed, leading the team in rebounding. Forward Romeo Travis and guard Dru Joyce, teammates of LeBron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, have stepped out of the shadows to offer solid contributions, as well.

Coupled with veterans Derrick Tarver, Andy Hipsher and Johnny Hollingsworth, and the Zips may have the formula to capture the MAC East crown.

Buffalo Bulls (5-4, 1-0)

Last Week: Robert Morris W 79-66; at Fairleigh Dickinson L 79-64
This Week: Idle

The Bulls saw their five-game winning streak snapped with a loss at Fairleigh Dickinson. Despite this, the team remains confident heading into MAC play.

Turner Battle has been steady, and the Bulls have received a surprise contribution from Yassin Idhibi, a late recruit who came from the basketball hotbed of Morocco. Idhibi has seized a starting role and has asserted himself as UB’s leading rebounder.

Kent State Golden Flashes (5-2, 1-0)

Last Week: Cleveland State W 116-66; at Boston College L 58-54
This Week: St. Bonaventure; at Detroit

The Golden Flashes tough stretch continues this week, with battles against Atlantic-10 foe St. Bonaventure and the MAC-killing Detroit Titans.

Matt Jakeway has stepped into a starting role, and came up with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists in his first ever start. Senior John Edwards has begun to fulfill his seven-foot potential, scoring 17 points against CSU and grabbing career-high 10 rebounds against Boston College.

DeAndre Haynes again has been steady at the point, and is second in the MAC in assists (5.6 apg).

Marshall Thundering Herd (3-4, 1-0)

Last Week: at U Mass L 83-65
This Week: at UAB

The Herd struggled against the Minutemen, as David Anderson was the only player in double-figures, with 11 points.

Junior guard A.W. Hamilton continues to distribute the ball, leading the MAC in assists (6.6 apg). Senior forward Marvin Black is fifth in the conference in rebounding (7.3 rpg).

Miami RedHawks (4-4, 0-1)

Last Week: vs SMU L 66-55; vs IPFW W 63-52
This Week: vs Cincinnati

Miami split at the Boilermaker Invitation this past week before prepping for a Saturday showdown against Cincinnati.

Josh Hausfeld drilled nine three-pointers in the Invitational, averaging 15.5 points in the two games.

Preseason All-MAC pick Juby Johnson was held to 2-of-15 shooting against the Mustangs but bounced back for 15 points against IPFW.

Ohio Bobcats (3-6, 0-1)

Last Week: Navy W 63-52
This Week: Toledo

Jaivon Harris is beginning to assert himself as the go-to-guy. Harris scored 12 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, leading Ohio to a victory against the Midshipmen. He also added seven rebounds. Junior college transfer Diamond Gladney also has performed well, and had 12 points against Navy.

West Division Capsules

Ball State Cardinals (3-3, 0-0)

Last Week: at IUPUI L 78-60
This Week: Western Kentucky; at UConn

Ball State’s roller coaster season continued with a disappointing loss to the Jaguars. While the Cardinals have knocked out perennial NCAA participants Butler and Xavier, the team also has lost to the likes of Indiana State and IUPUI.

Senior Robert Owens had 14 points while Skip Mills added 11.

The road doesn’t get any easier, with tough matchups against Western Kentucky and national top-five U Conn.

Bowling Green Falcons (3-5, 0-1)

Last Week: Detroit W 56-52
This Week: at Honolulu Rainbow Classic (3 games)

After having struggled through the early part of the season, the Falcons regained some momentum with a quality win against Detroit, a team that has provided the only losses to Toledo and Western Michigan.

Center Kevin Netter is proving why he was a Preseason All-Conference selection, as he collected 20 points and eight rebounds against the Titans.

Junior John Reimold returned from injury to score 17 points on four-three pointers.

Sophomore Ronald Lewis is fourth in MAC scoring, averaging 16. 4 points a game.

Central Michigan Chippewas (2-6, 0-0)

Last Week: at Michigan L 85-75
This Week: at Loyola-Chicago; Tri-State

Central’s record does not indicate is performance, as team has already faced Michigan, Ohio State, Dayton, Notre Dame and Purdue this season.

Against the Wolverines, the Chippewas fell behind 28-2 early, but nearly clawed back to force overtime.

Freshman Dave Hoskins started for the first time and netted 16 points. CMU desperately needs Hoskins athletic driving ability in the lineup.

Senior forward Gerrit Brigitha has regained his confidence and ranks fourth in MAC rebounding (7.5 rpg).

Eastern Michigan Eagles (3-4, 0-1)

Last Week: Idle
This Week: Northern Colorado

The Eagles did not play this past week in preparation for a home game against Northern Colorado. EMU opens conference play Jan. 2 at home against Kent State.

Northern Illinois Huskies (4-6, 0-1)

Last Week: Cornell College W 82-54; San Jose State L 53-41; BYU-Hawaii L 83-76; Baylor L 69-59
This Week: St. Francis

The Huskies have eight days to recover from their devastating Hawaii trip before looking to take out their frustrations against St. Francis next Tuesday.

Toledo Rockets (6-1, 1-0)

Last Week: at DePaul W 93-81; Wright State W 103-66
This Week: at Louisville

Freshman Justin Ingram has emerged as the point guard Toledo severely missed last season. His ability to set up Triplett and Villegas has been instrumental in U-T’s ascension.

Triplett had another good week, averaging 25 points. Villegas, Ingram and freshman wing Florentino Valencia also have provided a scoring boost.

Western Michigan Broncos (5-1, 1-0)

Last Week: at UAB L 69-62; at Loyola-Chicago W 79-61
This Week: at Arizona State; vs Winthrop/San Diego

The Broncos were road warriors this week, coming up with two key victories away from Kalamazoo.

They will have further chance to add to this, when they compete in the Arizona State Classic, which features the host Sun Devils, San Diego and Winthrop.


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