MAC Tournament Semifinal Recap

by Andrew Force | March 13th, 2009

Buffalo 64, Ball State 52

Pete Newell would have been proud.  In a league habitually dominated by backcourts, big men thrived Friday night.  Buffalo Bull junior forward Max Boudreau poured in a lucky 21, raising his career high by 50%.  Even a free fall landing him square on his back could not slow the Canadian import.  Gaudy statistics littered the substitute’s stat sheet.  Eight made field goals, five converted free throws, and five rebounds told the tale. 

The stock for all Buffalo’s bigs, unlike America’s, is bullish.  In their MAC Tournament debut Titus Robinson and Mitchell Watt each contributed a double-figure scoring effort.  Robinson in quarterfinals; Watt in the semis.  Junior Max Boudreau, in addition to displaying four of five vowels in his name, scored double figures on back-to-back nights. 

“You lose, you go home, so you have to come out hard,” said Boudreau.

Clearly a concerted effort to score inside existed for Buffalo. 

“Last time we played they took it to us in the paint and we really wanted to establish ourselves in that area,” said Buffalo Coach Reggie Witherspoon.

Per his instructions, UB’s Witherspoon fed paint pass after post feed against the beleaguered Cardinals. Watt hopped out to eight quick first half points and continued to show off an advanced array of moves. 

Standing 6’9″, Watt possesses a rare combination of talent and size in a conference where 6’4, 250 lb. players often occupy the paint.  In a matchup of Watt and Ball State Cardinal Jarrod Jones, Watt narrowly won.  Keep an eye on both of these freshman power players in the years to come.  Watt is very skilled, a good team communicator, and gentle at the apex. 

The Buffalo forwards combined to shoot a blistering 64% from the floor.  

Ball State supplied Buffalo with a mild scare late in the game with full court pressure. 

“It got a little anxious at the end with our ball-handling,” said Witherspoon.  Like the family that chills out despite an onrushing hurricane, Buffalo again showed too much calm in the face of the storm. 

Buffalo will try to win its first MAC Tournament Saturday night.  An admittedly young MAC program, the Bulls had only won five total games in their first nine years of conference post-season play.

In 2005, Ohio University bested Buffalo 80-79 in an overtime thriller, still fresh in the mind of Coach Weatherspoon.

“We are aware that nobody gave us a chance to be here,” said Coach Weatherspoon whose team was picked dead last before the season.  “You just go out and play.”  Play they will for the entire city of Buffalo, New York.

Akron 63, Bowling Green 55

The youngest, but most athletic, MAC team returned to the final game.  With a balanced, steady performance Akron disposed of an uncommonly hopeful Bowling Green unit, 63-55.

Despite mustering just two first half points, All-MAC talent Nate Miller attempted to bring down Akron all alone.  In a solo display as exciting as it was implausible, Miller reenacted every Jackie Chan movie.  One against the many. 

Down 28-17 at the half, Bowling Green’s senior forward quickly converted a layup and buried a three-pointer out of the locker room.   Akron floundered a bit, good shots seemingly parrying off Nate the Great’s chest. 

The 20.0% Falcons entirely erased their first half woes by the 9:07 mark in the second half, largely on the large shoulders of Miller.  The Hulkster scored 25 in the second stanza.  Threes fell from both wings.  Miller even flipped up a scoop shot while completely horizontal that rattled home.

Unfortunately for Miller the Falconer, Akron calls the MAC Final home. 

“We knew they were going to make a run,” said Akron forward Nate Linhart.  “We just had to respond.” 

The response took the curious form of a Loch Ness monster.  Where no trouble seemed present, from placid waters arose an offensive rebound off a missed Akron free throw.  While BG scrambled Akron sophomore Steve McNees confidently arced a twenty-foot shot.  The Zip faithful erupted as it fell thru the net, opening up a 51-45 lead.

“I think that any time that you can get an extra possession like that its huge,” said McNees.  “It was a good swing for us.”

Akron will be playing for an automatic NCAA berth in the MAC Final for the third consecutive year.  This season is by far the most improbable as the Zips entered the week as a #5 seed, and will be playing a fourth game in four days Saturday night. 

“I don’t consider it much of anything if we don’t win,” says senior Linhart.

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