OU-KSU, Toledo-Akron make up the MAC’s Final Four

Ben Roderick
Ohio’s Ben Roderick (left) and the Bobcats face Kent State in the 2022 MAC Tournament semifinals on Friday, March 11 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics/Colin Mayr

CLEVELAND — The defending champion takes on the hottest team in the league in the second half of an intriguing semifinal doubleheader on Friday night.

While No. 1 seed Toledo faces No. 4 Akron in one semifinal, it’ll be the second game that holds the interest of Bobcat fans near and far. No. 3 Ohio (24-8), last year’s Mid-American Conference Tournament champion, squares off against No. 2 Kent State (22-9) beginning at approximately 7:30 pm at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.

No team in the league is hotter than Kent State, which won its 13th straight game in the quarterfinal round on Thursday. And one of those 13 victims was Ohio. It was a game the Bobcats surely can’t forget. 

Back on Feb. 18, Ohio played a Friday night showcase game at Kent State. The result wasn’t pretty. Ohio lost 75-52, but it’s the first-half numbers that tell the real story.

The Flashes led 45-15 at the break in that one after Ohio shot 2 of 25, and 0 for 15 from 3-point range, in the first 20 minutes. 

“They just punked us,” said Ohio coach Jeff Boals on Thursday, after the Bobcats took out Ball State. “It’s a toughness game.”

OU scored an 80-72 win over KSU early in the MAC slate, in Athens. And the Bobcats dispatched the Flashes easily in the quarterfinals of the 2021 edition of the tournament.

But the Flashes come into this stacked, and playing with unbridled confidence. 

With the league’s four biggest basketball fan bases all in RMFH on Friday night, the Bobcats are anticipating a wild atmosphere.

“We’ve said all year we’ve got the best fanbase in the MAC,” Ohio PG Mark Sears said Thursday. “Tonight was providing the point. It’s true. We need them again tomorrow.”

No. 1 Toledo 72, No. 8 Central Michigan 71

The Rockets avoided one of the biggest upsets in MAC Tournament history, and escaped Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse with a one-point victory in the quarterfinal opener on Thursday. 

Forward Setric Millner scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half as Toledo (26-6) was unable to pull away from Central Michigan (7-23). 

Down one, the Chips had two possessions to potentially win it in the final seconds. CMU turned the ball over on an inbounds pass with 10.1 seconds left. After Toledo missed the front end of a one-and-one, CMU was able to get up the floor for a final shot, but Harrison Henderson’s off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer hit nothing but the backboard. 

Toledo will face Akron in the semifinals; The Chips’ season ends on a four-game losing skid. 

Millner hit 8-of-10 shots in the second half, and the Rockets shot 59.3% in the final 20 minutes. Henderson led CMU with 21 points.

Box Score

No. 4 Akron 70, No. 5 Buffalo 68

Greg Tribble converted two free throws with four seconds left as Akron slipped by Buffalo, 70-68, in the second quarterfinal matchup on Thursday in Cleveland. 

Akron (22-9) won its sixth straight and advanced into Friday’s semifinal round against No. 1 seed Akron at 5 pm back at RMFH. Buffalo (19-11) ends its season with a third straight loss. It was an early and disappointing exit for the preseason favorite to represent the MAC in the NCAA Tournament. 

Fourth-seeded Akron was led by Ali Ali’s 19 points; Enrique Freeman had 10 points and nine rebounds and the Zips had four players in double figures. Jeenathan Williams had 17 points to lead the Bulls, but preseason All-MAC selection Josh Mballa was limited to three points and two rebounds.

Box Score

No. 2 Kent State 85, No. 7 Miami 75

The Golden Flashes led 41-26 in the first half, and in general had little trouble with the RedHawks. KSU led by 19 with just 3:40 remaining.

Miami (14-18) made a late surge, and closed to within six points with under a minute to go but could get no closer. 

Malique Jacobs led KSU with 21 points and 11 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the year, and MAC Player of the Year Sincere Carry finished with 15 points and eight assists. 

Box Score

2022 MAC Tournament

Cleveland, Ohio | Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

Thursday, March 10 Quarterfinals

Game 1: No. 1 Toledo 72, No. 8 Central Michigan 71
Game 2: No. 4 Akron 70,  No. 5 Buffalo 68
Game 3: No. 2 Kent State 85, No. 7 Miami 75
Game 4: No. 3 Ohio 77,  No. 6 Ball State 67

Friday, March 11 Semifinals

Game 5: No. 1 Toledo (26-6) vs. No. 4 Akron (22-9), 5 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Game 6: No. 2 Kent State (22-9) vs. No. 3 Ohio (24-8), *30 minutes following prior game (CBS Sports Network)

Saturday, March 12 Championship

Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

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