While the Western Michigan University men’s basketball team hung tough in the first half with their defense, they were never able to take a lead in their conference opener Wednesday night and fell to the Akron Zips, 65-43.
The first half was an offensive struggle for both squads as neither team could break 30 percent shooting from the field. Free throws were also hard to come by as the teams combined to shoot only 10 free throws in the half. Western made two of their four, and the Zips made four of their six attempts.
The Broncos kept the game close in large part due to their three-point shooting. They made three of five attempts in the half, scoring almost half of their points from beyond the arc. The Zips, meanwhile, struggled from three points range, making only one of eight. At the half, the Zips led 25-19 in a low scoring affair.
The second half saw Akron turn around their offensive woes while the Broncos continued to struggle. The Broncos showed marginal offensive improvement, as they shot 37.5 percent from the floor. However, their three point shots didn’t fall, as they made only one of nine. The Zips heated up from the field as they shot a very efficient 56 percent from the floor and made half of their three point attempts.
The Akron lead ballooned as their shots began to fall. The lead had been six at the end of the first half, but it grew to nine on the first shot of the second half as Akron made a three only 13 seconds into the half. The lead had grown to 16 before three minutes had elapsed in the second half, and the Broncos were unable to counter with a run of their own. The lead grew to 25 with 3:43 remaining and Akron coasted the rest of the way to win by 22.
Austin Ritchie was the only Bronco to score in double digits with his 11 points. WMU also lost the rebounding battle 30-41. The leading Bronco rebounders were Darius Paul and Shayne Whittington with six apiece. The Broncos struggled with turnovers, committing 15 in the game, as Nate Hutcheson and Paul each had four. No Bronco finished with more than two assists. In one of the few bright spots of the game, David Brown took the court for the first time in over a year having last played December 11, 2011. In the game, he scored five points had two steals. Brown played 15 minutes off the bench.
The Broncos fell to 8-6 overall with the loss. They will return home for their next two games. Saturday, Jan. 12 they will play Ohio at 2 p.m. on youth basketball team day. Then, Wednesday, Jan. 16 they will face Toledo at 7 p.m. as they look to win some conference games.