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Mid-American Notebook

February 17, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-American Conference Notebook

by Jeremy Speer

Western is toppled in overtime

Last season, Central Michigan looked as if it would not lose another MAC game before a middle-of-the pack Akron squad stunned the Chippewas in a mid-February upset. In a very similar scenario, Western Michigan’s surprising loss to Marshall snapped the Broncos six-game winning streak and put a dent in its chances for securing an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Marvin Black’s career-high 30 points were the difference in the Herd’s 82-76 come-from-behind victory. Black led a late second half charge when he canned a short jumper that tied the game up and sent it into the extra session.

Coming into the game, Marshall boasted a modest 8-12 overall record including a 5-7 clip in the MAC, compared to Western’s marks of 18-2 overall and 11-1 in the MAC. Marshall, who traditionally plays much better at Huntington’s Henderson Center, now is on a two-game winning streak under first year coach Ron Jirsa.

The Broncos had cruised through the conference after a January setback at Kent State. A key was the ineffectiveness of Mike Williams, who came in averaging 19 points a game. Williams was held in check for just four points, helping the Herd escape with the win. Junior Ben Reed netted 25 points in the losing effort.

Broncos still in good shape

Despite the loss, Western still looks good atop the MAC West standings. After Eastern’s upset victory against Toledo Saturday, Western still maintains a game and a half lead over the Rockets, whom they hook up with in Kalamazoo Wednesday. A win against Toledo would give Western a likely insurmountable lead in the MAC West, and continue to add to their resume for the NCAA Selection Committee.

Eagles rising from the basement

Were it not for Marshall’s victory; Eastern Michigan would have notched the MAC’s biggest upset of the weekend with its 84-79 victory against Toledo. The Eagles have heated up of late, and have now won four of six games. Junior Markus Austin, who has always displayed a wealth of talent, is beginning to play more consistent, highlighted by his 27-point performance against the Rockets.

Eastern also boasts the MAC’s best inside tandem in John Bowler and James Jackson. The two are among the conference’s top five in rebounding and take full advantage of the lack of true centers in the conference.

Despite disappointing seasons from more-publicized players Ricky Cottrill and JaQuan Hart, coach Jim Boone has done a good job reestablishing some credibility in Ypsilanti.

Don’t count out the Bobcats

A notorious slow-starting bunch, rarely does a game go by without Ohio losing at halftime.

Despite the early set backs, the Bobcats have nailed down a come-from-behind victory in each of their past four games. Ohio struggled through non-conference play and at the onset of the MAC season, but with an 83-79 victory against Akron Saturday, the Bobcats now are tied for third in the MAC East with a 6-7 record.

Jaivon Harris has emerged as one of the conference’s most adept long-range bombers. He collected five of the team’s eight three-pointers against the Zips. Harris finished with 22 points in the game.

Senior Delvar Barrett, who has been a solid post presence, chipped in 16 points in the victory.

Ohio hopes to continue to climb the MAC East standings with a key matchup with second-place Miami Wednesday.

Young Bulls a tough defeat

While it may be a bit early to look ahead to next season, an early 2004-2005 MAC favorite may reside in the unlikely location of Buffalo, New York. The Bulls, who now have won five of seven games with a75-66 defeat of Central Michigan Saturday, do not have a senior on their roster. Four of the team’s top eight players are juniors, while the rest are underclassmen.

Leading the pack is do-it-all point guard Turner Battle, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the Chippewas. Battle, who has heated up in MAC season, is making a strong push for All-MAC honors. Junior Daniel Gilbert led the way with 17 points while sophomore Roderick Middleton added 15 points, all which came on three-pointers. Buffalo is in a three-way tie with Marshall and Ohio for third in the MAC East and heads to Eastern Michigan Wednesday.

NIU’s Judson hands out the discipline

A struggling team took more of a hit this week, when Northern Illinois coach Judson suspended Preseason All-MAC forward Marcus Smallwood for undisclosed conduct. Smallwood, who had been benched recently, currently is the MAC’s leading rebounder. Smallwood’s absence was felt last Wednesday, when the Huskies fell to Central Michigan, a team that had no prior MAC wins.

Senior P.J. Smith and sophomores Anthony Maestranzi and Todd Peterson have attempted to pick up the scoring load, but a lack of inside presence has been apparent for the MAC’s biggest disappointment of the season.

     

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