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MAC First Round recap: Upsets denied and the Marcus Keene show comes to an end

The lower seeds put up a fight, but the higher seeds pulled out wins across the board.

NCAA Basketball: Kent State at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The MAC Tournament kicked off on Monday night with four first-round games played on campus sites. Here is a rundown of the #MACtion:

(5) Western Michigan 65, (12) Miami 61

The Broncos were the only 11-7 team in MAC play to miss out on a first-round bye, and it almost cost them against the RedHawks.

Western Michigan trailed at halftime in front of its home crowd, with Miami closing the first half on an 11-3 run to take a 35-28 lead. The RedHawks increased the lead by two to open the second half on a basket by Michael Weathers, who finished with 14 points.

From that point, the Western Michigan comeback was on. The Broncos clawed their way back and finally took the lead for good with 8:45 to play on a basket by Reggie Jones. Tucker Haymond led Western Michigan in scoring with 16 points.

Western Michigan advanced to take on the 4 seed Ball State in the conference quarterfinals on Thursday in Cleveland.

(6) Kent State 116, (11) Central Michigan 106 (OT)

Kent State also needed to mount a comeback as it too trailed a lower-seeded opponent at home.

Central Michigan struggled through much of this season, but showed why it can be a dangerous team. The Chippewas rode the nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene, and his counterpart, Braylon Rayson, to 53 first-half points and a 13-point lead at the break.

But as it has much of the season, Central Michigan’s defense failed to hold the lead. Just over five minutes into the second half, Kent State had come all the way back to tie the game. It took a Rayson three with about a minute to play to send it into overtime.

Kent State put up 25 points in the overtime period, led by Jalen Avery, who scored 16 of his 24 points in the extra session.

The offensive statistics from this game were staggering. Keene led all scorers with 41 points while his teammate Rayson put up 32. Jimmy Hall led Kent State with 33 and also grabbed 14 rebounds. Jaylin Walker had a double-double for the Golden Flashes with 29 points and 14 rebounds. The teams combined to make 34 threes in the game.

Kent State moves on to play third-seeded Buffalo in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

(7) Toledo 77, (10) Bowling Green 62

The Rockets used a strong second half to pull away from rival Bowling Green.

The Falcons were able to stick around for much of the first half, but Toledo’s offensive efficiency in the game became too much to handle. Toledo assisted on 18 of its 25 made field goals and made the most of its trips to the free throw line, connecting on 19 of 22 shots.

Jonathan Williams was the leading scorer for the Rockets with 18 points. Toledo will face 2 seed Ohio in the quarterfinals. The Rockets beat Ohio in their only meeting this season and could be thinking upset.

(8) Eastern Michigan 72, (9) Northern Illinois 69

Eastern Michigan was able to hold Northern Illinois at bay in front of its home crowd.

The game was close for much of the second half, but the Eagles never relinquished the lead in that time. The Huskies were able to create multiple chances on the offensive end, recording 17 offensive rebounds as a team. However, Northern Illinois also missed 15 free throws as a group, contributing to its inability to snatch the lead away from Eastern Michigan late in the game.

James Thompson IV led the effort for Eastern Michigan, recording a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Eagles progress in the tournament to face top-seeded Akron in the quarterfinals. Akron defeated Eastern Michigan both times the teams faced during the regular season.

Updated Bracket: