Kent State, WMU move to MAC semifinals
By Steve DiMatteo
Special to FOX Sports Ohio
This might be the last MAC tournament for Kent St. senior forward Chris Evans and senior guard Randal Holt, but they’re certainly going out in style.
Evans scored 25 points (19 in the second half) and 15 rebounds – with Holt adding 17 points of his own – in Kent St.’s 70-68 MAC Tournament quarterfinal win against Buffalo on Thursday night.
The victory extends Kent St.’s winning streak to six, and the team has now won 9 of 11 overall after enduring a four-game losing streak in January.
The Golden Flashes only shot 3 of 15 from beyond the arc, but Evans simply couldn’t be stopped down the stretch, as he scored 10 of the team’s last 14 points in the second half. Whether it was a jumper, a slash in the lane or two clutch free throws with five seconds left, Evans was the Swiss Army knife of the evening.
“In the first half, I was settling for jumpers a little too early in the shot clock so in the second half I definitely had the mindset to attack the rim,” said Evans. “I was able to get in the lane and finish and create plays for others as well, so I definitely had the mindset to attack the lane in the second half.”
Senior Bulls guard Tony Watson II notched a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, connecting on 4 of 11 three-pointers. Forward Javon McCrea finished with 20 points and was dominating the first half before having to sit with two fouls.
As the MAC conference seems to so serendipitously do with regularity, Kent St. will face arch-rival Akron in the semifinals on Friday night. Teams can’t get much more familiar than these two, and Akron will surely be playing with a chip on its shoulder. The Zips will be looking to prove themselves without point guard Alex Abreu while also attempting to avenge a 68-64 loss to Kent St. on March 8.
For much of the first half, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan played to a methodical pace, as both teams seemed content playing the deliberate half-court game.
Then, out of nowhere, it became an offensive clinic, at least for a while. Five consecutive three-pointers were made between both teams, and Western Michigan couldn’t be stopped inside the paint.
Broncos center Shayne Whittington finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds while forward Darius Paul scored 14 points. Both would combine to score 17 of the team’s first 20 points of the game, working well together in the post.
“Darius and I have been playing together for a while, so we know where each other is going to be, especially when we’re playing high and low,” said Whittington.
As Western Michigan settled into a groove, Eastern Michigan settled into an offense that was a little more indicative of its season as a whole. In other words, the ball just wasn’t finding the hoop.
Eastern Michigan legend Earl Boykins was in attendance to watch his alma mater go absolutely cold from the field in the first half and into the second, as the Eagles wouldn’t make a shot for nearly seven minutes, and this included five straight missed free throws. The team would finish the game shooting 38.6 percent from the field.
Forward Daylen Harrison scored 14 points to lead the Eagles. Center Da’Shonte Riley scored 8 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
As the game developed into a more expected pace, Eastern Michigan would once again go cold.
Western Michigan would only make two shots in the last 5:04 of the game – though they didn’t need to make shots, because they were too busy converting ten free throws – but the Eagles would score just four total points in the final 4:03. Eastern Michigan simply doesn’t have enough finishers that can put a game away, and Western Michigan got just enough from its big men to secure the win.
Western Michigan moves on to face Ohio in the semifinals on Friday. The two teams played all the way back on January 12, a 61-59 Broncos loss at home.