The Western Michigan men’s basketball team won a close battle Wednesday night at University Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich. against its instate rival, Eastern Michigan, by a score of 63-59.
Shayne Whittington led the way with a team-high 14 points, and fellow big man Darius Paul was solid upfront recording 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The Broncos were once again strong on defense as they held their opponent to under 40 percent shooting for the third game in a row. They stayed attacking on offense getting to the line 21 times to make 16 free throws.
“What we saw tonight were two pretty good basketball teams,” Coach Steve Hawkins said.
“I told the kids we have to prepare to grind out a game. We were able to do that.”
WMU trailed early by as many as 10 as they struggled dealing with the Eagles’ length and zone defense, but they were able finish the first half strong and tie the game up at 24 apiece.
The Broncos continued their momentum into the second period and started the half on a 10-3 run culminating with Brandon Pokley nailing a three-pointer to put the score at 34-27 at the 15:42 mark.
“I thought that really the late first half flurry and the beginning of the first four minutes of the second half are what decided the game,” Hawkins said. “Eastern has some very good one-on-one players. We had to change the tempo of the game, and so we had to press, we had to trap (and) we had to get them out of rhythm.”
David Brown struggled with his shot for most of the game after being a sparkplug off the bench for the last few outings, but he made up for it with a huge basket late. After the Broncos surrendered the lead for the first time in the second half WMU’s Brown nailed his first three-pointer after missing his first five attempts to put WMU back on top 49-47. Paul extended the Bronco lead to eight after hitting a mid-range jumper with 2:42 on the clock, and the Eagles were only able to cut that deficit in half before time ran out.
Harrison led the Eagles with 15 points and Glenn Bryant tallied 12 points to go along with six boards. Connor Tava provided solid minutes off the bench for the Broncos for the second straight game, totaling six points, six boards and two assists.
WMU will travel to Mt. Pleasant this Saturday to face off against Central Michigan at 7 p.m.