|Broncos overcome early BG success
|Written by Paul Bowker
KALAMAZOO, MI -- Western Michigans David Kool did not want to go home. Not yet.
Kool, a senior guard who is WMUs all-time leading scorer, scored 15 of his team-leading 20 points in the second half, played all 40 minutes and led the Broncos back from a 10-point deficit Sunday to defeat Bowling Green 75-73 in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. We went home early last year (a first-round loss to Ohio) and we didnt want to. We wanted to survive and move on, and thats what we did, Kool said.
WMUs reward? A quarterfinal-round battle with rival Central Michigan, the No. 2 seed and MAC West champion, at noon Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The Broncos (17-14) and Chippewas (15-14) have never met in the MAC Tournament, but split regular-season games this year.
Can we just enjoy the win (Sunday)?, WMU coach Steve Hawkins said.
We know its going to be a tough game, Kool said. We beat them here and they beat us there. Were looking forward to it, and I cant wait.
Kool, the MACs scoring champion the last two years, had plenty of help in fighting off Bowling Green. Sophomore forward Flenard Whitfield came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points and grab six rebounds.
Hes a beast. He was just a beast today, Hawkins said.
Scott Thomas scored a game-high 23 points for Bowling Green (14-16), which ended its season with four consecutive losses. Marc Larson added 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Were disappointed because we want to compete for championships, Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. Were not discouraged. Our guys work really hard and we know where our inconsistencies are.
The way Sundays started out, Bowling Green threatened to turn it into a blowout. The Falcons scored the games first eight points and made 68 percent of their shots in the first half. Thomas hit 6-of-7 shots for 13 points. The Falcons led by as many as 10.
Bowling Green came out with a sense of purpose and they made us pay for it right away, Hawkins said. Our intensity picked up as we went on, but they executed better early on. It didnt help that they were just blazing hot.
The Broncos fought back, finally grabbing a temporary one-point lead in the final minute of the first half on a basket by Whitfield following a steal by Martelle McLemore.
Neither team led by more than five points in the second half, but the Broncos pulled away at the end after holding Bowling Green to just one basket in the final 2:57 -- a 3-pointer by Joe Jakubowski in the games final second. WMU guard Mike Douglas hit his only four free throws in the final minute to seal the win (WMU hit 88.9 percent of their free throws, 16-of-18, a season high).
I knocked down the free throws to help the seniors out, Douglas said.
The Falcons hit 50 percent of their shots in the second half, led by Thomas 10, but the Broncos strong play on the offensive boards overwhelmed Bowling Green. The Broncos outrebounded the Falcons 17-12 in the second half, including 10 offensive rebounds. WMU had 19 off offensive boards and turned the ball over a season-best six times. Demetrius Ward had five offensive rebounds for WMU, and Whitfield had four.
We gave up 19 second-chance points. If you look at it, thats the difference in the game, Orr said.
Trailing 73-70 with a chance to tie, Bowling Greens Luke Kraus missed a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left and the ball was rebounded by WMU. Three seconds later, Douglas hit two free throws to give the Broncos a five-point lead and punch their ticket for Cleveland.
It cant get any sweeter than that, Whitfield said about playing CMU again. We have to come in and focus hard, and go at them.