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February 22, 2012"We're on a mission: lose no more games."
That was the challenge from Demetrius Ward at the post-game press conference after pouring in a game-high 20 points, including a blistering 6-of-9 from three point range, as Western Michigan pulled away from Ball State for a much needed 78-61 win at University Arena Wednesday night.
Four of five Bronco starters scored in double figures, as Flenard Whitfield and Nate Hutcheson put up 15 points each and Matt Stainbrook added 11, with eight rebounds. For the game, WMU (12-16, 6-7 Mid-American Conference) shot 55.3% from the field, including a scorching 13-of-21 (61.9%) from beyond the arc.
The first half was marked by large runs on each side, as WMU embarked on a 14-0 run over a 2:05 span starting at the 12:30 mark, taking a 22-10 lead. The run was highlighted by four straight threes, as Ward sandwiched a pair of treys around two Brandon Pokely long balls. This was immediately followed by a 12-0 Cardinal run to tie the game, capped by a Tyrae Robinson layup with 5:53 to go in the half. The teams went back and forth from there, with Ward hitting his fifth three of the half with five seconds left to send the game into half at a 35-all tie.
While Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins was pleased with the offensive effort in the first half, he was not entirely happy at the break.
"Defensively we didn't play very well. In the first half in particular, that's not the way we want to win a ball game. We need to remember who we are and what our identity is," Hawkins said.
The second half became much more physical, with the offensive flow slowing down considerably. Both teams had reached the one-and-one bonus by the 12:55 mark, and 28 total fouls were called in the half.
While Western Michigan never trailed in the frame, BSU stayed within striking distance until the final minutes. The final turning point of the second half came as Nate Hutcheson gave the Broncos all the momentum they needed in a late 51 second stretch. With WMU hanging on to a 64-58 lead, Hutcheson drove the right baseline and threw down a one-handed reverse dunk in traffic. On the next WMU possession, Hutcheson drained a three from the left wing to give the Broncos a 69-59 lead with 3:49 to play, and WMU never looked back from there.
Ball State (13-13, 4-9 MAC) was led by Chris Bond with 14 points and Jauwan Scaife with 10. Leading scorer Jarrod Jones was held to just six points on a 15.8 average.
As for Ward, this was simply another night at the office in a string of hot performances from deep. Ward is now 15-of-28 from beyond the arc in the last three MAC contests. This comes only three weeks removed from a knee injury that kept the guard out of games against Miami and Bowling Green.
Regarding his recent success, Ward had one thing to say.
"It's the lucky knee brace."
Western Michigan remains one game behind Eastern Michigan (12-16, 7-6 MAC) in the West Division. The Broncos next travel to Toledo to take on the Rockets (14-14, 5-8) on Saturday at 7pm.
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