Coming off a tight victory over rival Central Michigan on their home court, the Western Michigan University men’s basketball team played their first game against the East side of the MAC conference, and fell to Ohio University on the road in a tightly contested match, 56-51.
Ohio who currently sits tied for second in the MAC East division with a 4-2 conference record, is now 16-4 overall, holding the best overall winning percentage in the conference. The Broncos now fall to back to .500 in their conference record, which now stands at 3-3, and hold an overall record of 9-11, while they hold their position of 3rd place in the MAC West.
The Broncos have not won a game in Athens under current coach Steve Hawkins, and since Hawkins took over, the Broncos are 4-7 against Ohio, in fact, in the history of the match-up, the Broncos have not fared well playing Ohio University on the road, where their record stands all time at 18-44.
In this game, the Broncos failed to knock down shots consistently, as they shot only 30.2% from the floor, and shooting 6-19 from 3-point range. While they won the rebounding battle, as they have been doing often this season, out-rebounding MAC opponents by an average of 8.6 rebounds per game, 43-32, they committed 17 turnovers to only 10 assists. Ohio didn’t fare much better from the field, shooting only 35% as a team, only 25% from 3-point range, and having a worse assist-to-turnover margin than the Broncos at 7 assists to 14 turnovers, Ohio won on their home floor.
The starters scored 30 of the 56 Bronco points, but the leading scorer came from the bench in freshman guard Austin Ritchie, who scored 16 with 3-3-pointers, shooting 4-8 from the floor and 5 of 7 from the free throw line. Shayne Whittington also turned in a good effort with 9 points and 13 rebounds. Mike Douglas had had 12 points including 7-8 free throws and 4 assists as he continues his chase of overtaking Billy Stanback as the all-time assist leader at Western Michigan University, he now needs 16 more to bread the record which currently sits at 427. In other record news, Flenard Whitfield scored four points to break his tie with Sean Wightman for 24th on the all time points list for Western Michigan University, he now holds that spot outright.
Ohio was paced by their leading scorer on the season, D.J. Cooper, who was averaging just over 14 points per game, as he scored 18 points, including 4-9 from 3-point range, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Jon Smith also played a solid game for Ohio, registering 6 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks while shooting perfectly from the field.
Western trailed by 15 points with 5:35 remaining in the first half before rallying to tie the game at 30 by halftime. The Broncos were never able to sustain much of a lead and never led by more than 2 points in the few times they were ahead.
The Broncos will play their next 2 games at home, where they are an undefeated 8-0 this season. On Saturday, January 28th they will play Miami of Ohio, who is currently 5-12 overall and 1-4 in the conferenfe at 4 PM, and Wednesday, February 1st they play Bowling Green who is 8-10 overall and 2-3 in the conference at 7 PM.