KALAMAZOO, MI. - After a back-and-forth battle, the Western Michigan University men's basketball team was able to earn a 63-56 overtime victory over arch-rival Central Michigan in front of 3,476 fans at University Arena Sunday afternoon.
With the score tied 45-45 with 6:21 to play, WMU went on a 7-0 run over the next three minutes. After struggling to find offense throughout most of the afternoon, Demetrius Ward took over for the Brown & Gold. Ward drew two fouls in traffic, converted all four free throw attempts, and later capped the run with a long three from the left side to put the Broncos ahead 52-45 with 3:04 to play.
It was part of a huge afternoon for Ward, who tied a career-high with 21 points and hit 12-of-14 free throws, both career-highs. Ward's free throws were part of a gritty performance at the line for WMU, which hit 25-of-35 from the charity stripe (71.4 percent).
CENTRAL MAKES A RUN
CMU responded with a run of its own to force overtime. Trey Zeigler started the Chippewa comeback with a free throw. After a WMU miss, Amir Rashid hit a foul-line jumper to cut the Bronco lead to 52-48 with 1:55 to play.
With the shot clock winding down on CMU's next possession, Finis Craddock hit a high-arcing runner off the window for his only points of the night, cutting the WMU lead to two.
Ward tried to answer for WMU, but a contested lay-up fell off the rim. With time running out, Zeigler attacked the rim from the right wing, split two Bronco defenders and hit a floater over another Bronco to tie the game at 52-52 with two seconds left. Ward had a good look from 30 feet as time expired, but his shot hit the back of the rim and the two teams headed to overtime.
Once again, WMU turned to Ward in the overtime period. First, Ward got a feed from Douglas off an in-bounds play and converted a tough reverse lay-up to put the Broncos on top. Ward was then fouled by Zeigler while going for a rebound at the other end and hit one of the ensuing free throws.
Rashid answered for CMU with a jumper to make it 55-54 WMU with 2:21 left in the overtime period. Flenard Whitfield converted a clutch lay-up for the Broncos seconds later off a feed from Mike Douglas, who recorded two of his game-high five assists in the overtime stanza.
WORKING THE BOARDS
Hitting the offensive glass netted the Broncos their next opportunities, with Ward drawing a foul on an offensive rebound and hitting both free throws to make it 59-54 WMU.
Zeigler answered again for the Chippewas with another runner in the paint to cut the lead to 59-56 with 51 seconds to play. It was the last of Zeigler's game-high 22 points, which he racked up on 9-of-21 shooting. The Chippewas forced WMU into a miss at the other end, but once again Ward hit the glass and corralled the rebound, drawing the foul in the process. Ward hit both free throws to give the Broncos a 61-56 lead with 21 seconds remaining in overtime. Though the Brown & Gold were outrebounded 44-41 overall and 19-11 on the offensive end, WMU was able to grab a couple big offensive rebounds in overtime to help secure the victory.
WARD SHINES IN OT
The Chippewas got a good look at the other end, but Zeigler's three fell short. CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler was assessed a technical foul on the play, and Ward converted the free throws to put the game out of reach. Ward came through when it mattered most for the Broncos, with 19 of his 21 points coming in the final six minutes of the game and in overtime.
In addition to Ward, WMU had three other players score in double figures. Douglas led the rest of the Broncos with 11, while Nate Hutcheson chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds. Juwan Howard Jr. added 10 points and three blocks. It is the fourth time WMU has had four players score in double figures this season. Matt Stainbrook pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds for WMU.
Jalin Thomas added 11 points for the Chippewas, but was held to just 3-18 shooting. For the game, the Broncos held CMU to 31.4 percent shooting (22-70) while hitting 36 percent of their own shots (18-50).
Defense led to a quick start for WMU, as the Broncos held CMU scoreless over a 7:55 span to open up a 16-6 lead. CMU answered with a 10-0 run of its own, clamping down on defense to hold the Broncos scoreless for the next 5:46. The lead never got higher than seven for either team the rest of regulation, with seven ties and six lead changes in the contest.
WMU will look to improve to 2-0 in the MAC Wednesday when the Broncos hit the road for the first time in conference play. They travel to Muncie, Ind. for a showdown with preseason MAC West favorite Ball State. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Courtesy of Western Michigan Athletics