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November 9, 2013

Whittington-less Broncos knock off Aggies 70-64 in season opener

The Western Michigan Broncos knocked off tournament favorite New Mexico State 70-64 in the wee hours of the morning earlier today, despite not having the services of Preseason All-MAC selection Shayne Whittington.

Earlier in the week, the Broncos found out that Whittington was suspended by the NCAA due to an obscure violation buried in the rule book.

According to a release from the WMU athletic department, the ruling was made as a result of Whittington appearing in an exhibition game during his sophomore season in 2010-2011, and later redshirting that same season due to injury. In the exhibition game against Spring Arbor, Whittington logged 6 minutes, scoring 0 points, racking up four fouls in the process.

The win against the Aggies was the Broncos first season-opening victory in eight years. David Brown led all scorers with 25 points, going 8-16 from the field.

Freshman Kellen McCormick added 14 points, getting his first career start in place of the suspended Whittington. Austin Richie had a big second half, adding 10 points on 3-3 shooting from behind the arc.

Western Michigan was led by strong guard play all game, and the Bronco bigs put in a heroic effort against what many are calling one of the tallest teams in the nation.

7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar was held to just 9 points and 6 rebounds, despite the obvious mismatch inside, while South African big man Tshilidzi Nephawe led the Aggies with 18 points and 8 rebounds.

A significant amount of the credit deserves to be given to the Western Michigan coaching staff as well, as the loss of Whittington and constant foul trouble plagued the Broncos in the second half.

Hawkins seemingly did a masterful job of balancing rotations and pushing all the right buttons at the right times throughout the game, while the players did their part, executing the game plan to perfection.

Guards Jared Klein (9 pts.) and Taylor Perry (2 pts., 6 reb., 2 blks.) also played a vital role in the win, down the stretch.

The Broncos will take on host team Hawaii at 12:30 a.m. (ET) late tonight/early tomorrow morning.

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