Broncos Win Fourth Straight, Down USF 58-53
Facing off against an athletic squad that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012, the Broncos fought through a frustrating offensive night to take a late lead against the Bulls. Brandon Pokley broke double-digits in scoring for the fourth straight game, leading the Broncos with 15 points and going 3 of 4 from three-point range. Darius Paul broke double figures for the fourth consecutive contest as well, scoring 14 points and notching a game-high eight rebounds. Paul was named to the USF Invitational All-Tournament Team, as well as Nate Hutcheson; Hutcheson finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
The Broncos held the Bulls to just a 37.0 percentage from the field, and out-rebounded them 39-26. WMU grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the contest, compared to just two offensive rebounds for USF. The Broncos shot 38.1 percent from three-point range, including a 3 of 4 performace from Pokley.
The teams were tight throughout the second half, with the Bulls taking a 48-47 lead with 8:21 remaining in regulation. The teams would both go scoreless for three minutes, but Hutcheson would make two plays on the ensuing possessions to put the Broncos on top. Hutcheson drove baseline at the 5:22 mark to notch a lay-up and put the Broncos ahead 49-48, and on the next defensive possession Paul grabbed a defensive board. The ball was advanced up-court, with Hutcheson diving out of bounds through the Broncos' bench to keep it from going out of bounds on an errant pass. The ball made its way to Jared Klein and he zipped a pass to Paul, who buried a three-pointer from the right wing to give the Broncos a 52-48 lead.
Klein would hit a clutch three-pointer of his own less than a minute later. With the shot clock winding down to zero, Paul set a high screen for Klein, who fired a three from well beyond the three-point line, draining the bucket and giving the Broncos a 55-50 lead. USF pulled to within 55-53 on an old-fashioned three-point play from Jawanza Poland, but Hutcheson iced the victory for the Broncos with a three-point play of his own, scoring a lay-up and drawing a foul in the process with 24 seconds remaining.
The Broncos took the lead early in the first half, but were forced to battle back late as the Bulls took control in the middle of the period. The Broncos opened with a 7-2 run to start the game, with Pokley scoring five of the first seven for the Broncos. The lead reached 10-5 when Pokley drained his second three-pointer of the half at the 16:16 mark, but the Bulls would take the lead with 8:56 remaining on a dunk from Victor Rudd. USF lead by as many as eight points when Shaun Noriega drained a three from the corner to make it 35-37, but WMU chipped away; Austin Richie knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead to 35-30, and Paul would make a pair of free throws with 51 seconds remaining to make it 35-32. Hutcheson would pull the Broncos to within two points when he scored on a putback at the buzzer, making it 36-34 at half.