Kalamazoo, MI (WKZO) – Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins knew that his team’s opening Mid-American Conference game would be a challenge. The challenge, a 12-1 Toledo Rocket team picked by almost every expert to win the MAC West Title and an offense that averages 86 points per game. But none of that mattered as the Broncos led for almost the entire game and are now 1-0 in conference play after defeating Toledo 87-76.
Connar Tava was perfect from the field (9-9) and scored a career high 25 points, while Austin Richie put up a season high 19 points, 17 in the first half, for the Broncos (8-5, 1-0 MAC) who held the Rockets to 10 points less than their season average.
After Toledo made a three-pointer to start the game, the Broncos went on an 18-2 run and increased their lead to 36-14 with 7:25 left in the first half. WMU closed out the half with a 47-33 advantage, all while nearly doubling the Rockets shooting percentage during the half (67.9% to 34.6%).
In the second half the Rockets battled back and closed the gap to just four points at 74-70 but key free throws from David Brown and Richie helped secure the Broncos 11th win at home in their last 12 matchups with Toledo at University Arena.
Shayne Whittington had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Brown had 12 points in just 24 minutes.
The Broncos will continue MAC play on Saturday as the travel to Oxford, Ohio to take on the Miami (OH) Redhawks. Tip-off is set for 3pm.
Game Notes: The Broncos finished the game 29-48 (60.4%) from the field…Taylor Perry hauled in eight rebounds…Tucker Haymond had seven points in his first game back after missing the last three games with an injury…Four Rockets fouled out and as team they had 30 fouls…The Broncos struggles from the free throw continued, as they made just 23 of 41 attempts from the stripe…Justin Drummond scored 18 for the Rockets (12-2, 0-1 MAC)