KALAMAZOO, MI (WKZO) -- It wasn’t the prettiest of games but at this point in the season, an ugly win is better than a season ending loss.
Behind a balance scoring attack from the Broncos, which saw 5 players finishing in double-figures, the Western Michigan men’s basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament with a 69-63 victory over Ball State Monday night at University Arena. With the win the team is now headed to Cleveland for the next round of action.
“Interesting game,” Coach Steve Hawkins said. “We started off slow, they started off hot. We had to battle back and dealing with foul trouble, that become an interesting game to manage. We had to start juggling things and I thought our bench was excellent tonight.”
Flenard Whitfield led the team in scoring with 12 points but was limited to only 1 rebound as he battled foul trouble in his final home game as a Bronco.
“He’s (Whitfield) is a difference maker,” Hawkins said. “We were pretty happy with being up 3 at halftime with Whitfield being in foul trouble.”
WMU did lead at halftime 33-30 but it was the Cardinals who looked sharp early as they opened the game on a 6-0 run and increased their lead to 15-6 WITH 12:55 remaining in the first half.
It didn’t help the Broncos that in addition to Whitfield’s foul trouble that Mike Douglas also picked up 3 early fouls and was limited to only 9 minutes in the first half.
After Whitfield and Douglas departure to the bench, it was the Broncos turn to make a run. Behind a productive Broncos bench, with much of the scoring coming from Shayne Whittington, WMU responded by going on a 17-4 run to take the lead 23-19. The team teams traded the lead the rest of the 1st half and the Broncos entered halftime up 33-30.
The beginning of the 2nd half saw much of the same, as the Broncos continued to pour it on Ball State, scoring the first 6 points of the half and eventually increasing their lead to 45-35.
Ball State then scored 10 straight points to tie the game at 45 with 10:14 remaining.
WMU increased their lead back up to 7 with 6:19 left in the game. Ball State chipped away at the lead but never got it any closer than 2 and as the final horn sounded ending the game, so did the Cardinals season.
Jesse Berry had 19 in 27 minutes off the bench for the Cardinals. But it was the Broncos defense on Ball State’s leading scorer and rebounder Jarrod Jones who was held to only 8 points and 6 rebounds that made the difference.
The Broncos now head to Cleveland for the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament. They will play Northern Illinois at 7pm on Wednesday. WMU beat Northern in both meetings this season, 77-68 on January 11th in Kalamazoo and 78-53 on February 15th in DeKalb.
GAME NOTES: Brandon Pokely made his 2nd start on the season for Nate Hutchenson, who was out due to team reasons, finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds in 33 minutes. Hutchenson will be available for the next game against Northern Illinois…Coach Hawkins picked up a technical foul in the first half. Matt Stainbrook also picked up a technical in the 2nd…Stainbrook finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds…WMU out shot Ball St 49%-37% and outrebounded the Cardinals 35-26…Austin Richie had 10 points for the Broncos off the bench…Dan Loney had 6 points and 5 boards for the Broncos as well…With the win WMU improves to 13-19 on the season.