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February 27, 2013

Paul has 28, WMU takes front seat in MAC West race

Darius Paul scored a career high 28 points as the emerging MAC Freshman of the Year front-runner led the Broncos to their biggest conference win of the year, defeating the Toledo Rockets 65-62 at Savage Arena Wednesday night.

"Unbelievable," said head coach Steve Hawkins of Paul's performance via Robin Hook's post-game 'Coaches Show' on WKZO.

"He was everywhere. He was very physical. I thought he had great energy, chased down a lot of balls, and got offensive rebounds. He really took the lid off the basket early with those two early three's and it never stopped. With Shayne having an off night, we started running things to David Brown and Darius Paul. Those kids made huge plays when we needed to make them."

Junior big man Shayne Whittington was limited to 0 points on the night (0-2 FG), due to constant foul trouble. However it was the Bronco bench that kept Western Michigan in the game at key moments.

Hawkins specifically highlighted the rarely used freshman forward A.J. Avery, who has been through some difficult times as of late with some personal distractions.

"A.J. Avery's minutes were tremendous," said Hawkins. "I'm so proud of him. For somebody like A.J. who truly is coming into a situation where he doesn't know if he's going to play... you've got to be ready. And when you are, you've got to perform. And A.J. had to do that tonight."

Hawkins also outlined role players Taylor Perry, Connar Tava, and Dan Loney who came off the bench and made important contributions throughout the evening as well.

The game was tight all the way down to the wire until a late 4-0 push from none other than Darius Paul and David Brown, who had another late-game steal and layup to go ahead 62-58 with just over two minutes left in the game.

From there, the Broncos held on and played tough defense the rest of the way to get the hard-earned victory. David Brown contributed 15 points off the bench, while Nate Hutcheson added 8 points and 7 rebounds. Toledo guard Reese Holliday led all Rockets with 16 points, going 4-6 from behind the arc in a losing effort.

It was just the 13th time in 64 attempts that Western Michigan was able to defeat the Rockets in Toledo, and the first time since the 2009-2010 season that the Broncos pulled off the season sweep.

"I thought it was just a tremendous road win, and a team win," said Hawkins. "This win kind of epitomizes our team all year long. I just could not be more proud of the way the kids fought and executed when they had to."

After tonight's win, the Broncos improve to 18-9 and 9-4 in MAC play. WMU travels to Ypsilanti on Saturday to face the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

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