Broncos Dominate Early, Hold On Late at High Point
The Broncos were in complete control of the contest for most of the afternoon, building all the way to a 25-point lead with 12:10 remaining in the second half. However, much like the first time these teams played this season, the Panthers clawed their way back into the contest and pulled as close as four points with five seconds remaining. However, Nate Hutcheson quelled the rally with a pair of free throw makes in the final seconds to seal the win.
Hutcheson finished with a team-high 19 points on just 4-of-7 shooting, going 9-of-12 from the free throw line to bolster his offensive output. Shayne Whittington went off for 15 points and nine rebounds, and Darius Paul recorded his second double-double in three games with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Connar Tava provided quality production off the bench, scoring eight points and recording eight rebounds.
WMU came out with a purpose in the first half, hoping to take the outcome out of question early; they nearly did just that with an electric first half in which they shot 16-of-29 from the field. The Panthers took a two-point lead at the 16:28 mark of the half, but Whittington recorded a lay-up less than 30 seconds later to tie the score, and knocked down a jumper on the very next possession to make it an 8-6 Bronco advantage.
The Broncos took the lead for good at the 12:05 mark on a long jumper from Paul, sparking 21-0 run that turned a close half into a blowout. Brandon Pokley made an open three from the right corner to make it 20-10, and Taylor Perry would drill a triple at the 5:20 mark of the half to bump the lead to 27-10. Hutcheson would make a free throw at the 4:07 mark to make it a 20-point lead in the first, and a broken play at the end of the period resulted in a lay-up for Hutcheson as time expired, giving the Broncos a 37-16 advantage at the end of the half.
The lead would continue to swell in the second half, reaching 24 points when Hutcheson drained a triple from the corner to make it 51-27. The high water mark came just two minutes later, when Jared Klein stepped into a jumper at the elbow to make it 55-30 with 1:06 remaining. It was still a 20-point lead with under eight minutes to play, with Austin Richie making a free throw to make it 56-36, but the Panthers out-scored the Broncos 28-11 over the next eight minutes to pull within four points at the end.