The Western Michigan University men’s basketball team continued its impressive play Saturday night by defeating the visiting Buffalo Bulls 71-60 for its sixth straight victory overall and in conference play.
The Broncos are now 6-2 in Mid-American Conference play and lead the West Division.
WMU big man Shayne Whittington dominated the score sheet recording a game-high 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and four steals.
Darius Paul added 15 points and eight boards. David Brown was solid once again off the bench for the Broncos with 13 points.
Javon McCrea led the Bulls with 22 points and ten rebounds
Whittington has imposed his will consistently on defense this year. His confidence has been evident when he gets his hands on the ball and it is one of the biggest reasons this Bronco team has enjoyed the success it has had in this recent run.
“One of the things I was really happy to see with Shane was he took 18 shots,” Coach Steve Hawkins said.
“In the past if he had missed a couple of the misses he had missed earlier in the game he would have turned himself into a passer. We kept going to him, we kept finding him and he kept delivering. I was really happy to see he was aggressive all night.”
This was a grind-your-way-out kind of game from the get go.
The Broncos forced Buffalo into 20 turnovers and limited them to 32 percent shooting in the second half WMU was able to get to the line 32 times to hit 21 free throws and they outrebounded the Bulls 40 to 30.
“You have to take what the defense gives you,” Hawkins said.
“When it’s three yards and a cloud of dust, that might not look like a good football game. This was a three yards and cloud of dust kind of game. We weren’t taking a lot of threes. They were taking that away. What was available to us was feeding the ball inside and driving the ball.”
After a close hard-fought battle in the first half and the score tied at 31-31, the Broncos took their largest lead of the game when they went up by seven at the 15:28 mark of the second period.
Nate Hutcheson swatted down a jumper by Buffalo’s Cameron Downing, grabbed the ball and heaved a full-court pass down to a streaking Austin Richie who caught and made the layup to make it 43-36.
Buffalo responded with a 5-0 run to get back within one at 43-42, but the Broncos scored the next nine points to extend their lead to ten at 52-42 with 9:46 remaining.
Guards David Brown and Taylor Perry made key hustle plays during this stretch and they got to the line four times to hit seven free
Buffalo would not go away easily and they stayed within four of the Broncos after Downing completed a tough three-point play in the post to make it 60-56 with 3:31 left to play.
WMU fed the ball inside to Whittington and Paul and they scored the Broncos next seven points to make it 67-56 with 1:26 to go which finally put the game out of reach.
WMU will play its next game this Wednesday at home against Kent State at 7 p.m.