Mid-American Conference Tournament Recap
by Matthew Moll
There were no surprises in the first round of the MAC tournament with all the higher seeds advancing to the quarterfinals. Buffalo, Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, and Ohio all avoided upsets to keep their seasons alive.
Games of note included No. 8 Bowling Green sneaking past No. 9 Ball State. The Falcons’ John Reimold’s 38 points were not nearly as rousing as his defensive stop to end the game. Reimold impeded the Cardinal’s Julien Mills’ move to the basket, forcing Mills into a low-percentage shot, which caromed harmlessly off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
No. 5 Kent State hit on 11 three-pointers during a 91-60 bludgeoning of No. 12 Central Michigan. The Golden Flashes story of the game was the shooting, connecting on 55.7 percent from the field.
It was much of the same for the second round as three (Western Michigan, Miami, and Ohio) of the four higher seeds advanced to the semi-finals. The only exception was Team First Time Buffalo, who set a team record for D-I wins with 20 in the first round. No. 7 seed Buffalo defeated No. 2 seed Toledo 85-72. Calvin Cage went for 23 to aid the Bulls to their first MAC tournament semifinal since joining the conference in 1997.
Western Michigan nearly had to be sent home early in the quarterfinals before they prevailed in overtime 66-60 over No.6 Akron. The Zips were limited to two points in the extra session by Western en route to dropping to 0-5 in the MAC quarterfinals.
No. 4 Ohio 63, No. 1 Miami 56
Despite recovering from early offensive woes thanks to numerous outside shot misses in the first half, the No. 1 seed Miami received an early exit from the MAC tourney because they hit another slump late in the game, in turn granting the Bobcats their first trip to the MAC final since 1994.
The final minute was particularly painful for the Redhawks because of three missed opportunities to tie and another opportunity to cut into the lead before the game was placed out of their reach.
The Bobcats did not have a great game shooting either, starting the game 1-19 and finished the game shooting 35 percent from the field. This futility from the field included missing their first 14 shots from beyond the arc.
Ohio’s Sonny Troutman led all scores with 19.
No. 7 Buffalo 75, No. 3 Western Michigan 68
Buffalo advanced to the MAC tournament finals for the first time since joining in 1997. The Bulls also added to the school-record win count, increasing to 22 their highest total since becoming a D-I school in 1991.
The Bulls did it with Yassin Idbihi, a 6-10 sophomore, scoring 17 from in the paint and outside to lead Buffalo into the finals. Idbihi capped a 14-2 run, which gave the Bulls a 51-50 lead. The spurt was followed soon after by a Daniel Gilbert three, which put Buffalo and its long suffering fans ahead for good with over six minutes remaining in the game.
Western Michigan had four starters score in double figures, but only received eight points from its bench in the upset.
No. 4 Ohio 80, No. 7 Buffalo 79 (OT)
Only one team’s period of exiguousness ended while the other’s continued. Ohio was down by as many as 19 points in the second half before bolting back and earning their first automatic bid since 1994.
For Buffalo it was a devastating loss and an un-storybook type ending to its historic season. Buffalo most likely will make a visit to the NIT with an at-large birth not usually relegated to smaller conferences.
The Bulls looked to have the game in had on two difference occasions. With 16 minutes remaining, Buffalo was rolling and up 57-38, before Ohio awoke and went on a 22-3 run. In the overtime session, Buffalo’s Turner Battle gave the Bulls their last lead of the game with 11.5 seconds left in the extra session. But the Bobcats responded. MAC tourney MVP Leon Williams rebounded a teammate’s miss and his put back with five-tenths remaining put dancing shoes on the ‘Cats.
The duo of Williams and Jeremy Fears combined for 50 points in the win.