Broncos Take Slugfest with MAC Rival Eagles
The Broncos rallied from what was at one point a 10-point deficit in the first half, and overcame a three-possession deficit to tie the game heading into the half. Shayne Whittington scored a team-high 14 points for the Broncos on 7-of-12 shooting, and also notched two blocks, a rebound, and an assist. Nate Hutcheson finished the game with 12 points, Darius Paul added 11 points and nine rebounds, and Brandon Pokley notched 10 points and two assists. The Bronco bench made the difference again, outscoring EMU 16-10, and WMU controlled points in the paint 22-14.
The Broncos took control when they opened the second half on a 10-3 run, with Pokley dropping a three-pointer from the right corner to give the Broncos a 34-27 lead. Pokley made a pair of free throws on Da'Shonte Riley's technical foul at the 13:55 mark to again make it a seven-point lead, and the Broncos kept the Eagles at arms length for much of the period.
Eastern Michigan briefly tied the score at 47-46, but the Broncos countered when David Brown drained a three-pointer from the right wing to give his team a two-point advantage with 5:37 remaining. Paul expanded that lead with a pair of free throws, and Whittington scored on an inside feed to make it 55-49 with 3:55 to play. Paul gave the Broncos an eight-point lead with a jumper at the 2:42 mark to make it 59-51.
The Eagles pushed back into the conversation with a strong finish to the half, but with the Broncos leading 59-55 with 21.1 seconds remaining, Brown sunk a pair of free throws to increase the pressure on EMU. J.R. Sims scored on a lay-up with 13.1 seconds remaining to make it 61-57, but Pokley made a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining to make it 63-57 and essentially put it out of reach.
The first half opened up as expected, with as the two excellent defensive teams kept each other off the scoreboard early. The teams were tied at 8-8 from the 14-minute mark until there was 11:13 remaining in the half, at which point the Eagles scored on consecutive possessions to make it 12-8. EMU lead by as many as 10 points with 7:10 remaining, but Paul got hte Broncos back on track with a lay-up at the 6:04 mark to begin the comeback.
The Broncos made up a nine-point deficit with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, using increased pressure on defense and improved offensive rebounding to cut into the Eagles' lead. Hutcheson got things moving with a hook shot to make it 24-17 with 1:32 to play, and the senior knocked three more points off the deficit by making three free throws after EMU's Jamell Harris fouled him in the act of shooting a three-pointer.
Hutcheson was heavily involved in the next two Bronco baskets as well, although in a different way, as his attacking the hoop led directly to offensive rebounds and baskets. After the Broncos switched to a full court pressure defense, Brandon Pokley forced Daylen Harrison into a turnover and hit Hutcheson on the fast break. Hutcheson missed the lay-up, but Connar Tava picked up the loose change and tipped it in to make it 24-22 with 51 seconds to play. WMU forced a turnover on the next Eagle possession as well, and Tava was there again to pick up an offensive rebound and lay it in, tying the score with 15 seconds left in the half.