Western Michigan improved to 17-9 on the season after beating visiting Pacific in the final year of the ESPN Bracketbuster games. In what appeared to be another typical grind-it-out Mid-American Conference matchup at University Arena Saturday night in front of 3,172 people, WMU had another impressive home win over a veteran team from the Big West Conference.
"To be honest, I didn't even notice a difference," said Whittington in response to how this game compared to conference play.
"It reminded me of a MAC game. They were physical, those guys were hitting shots, they were battling down low, it was back and forth... it was a great game."
The Broncos stuck with a simple, yet effective game plan early as two Darius Paul back-door feeds to Nate Hutcheson and Shayne Whittington caught the Tigers napping a bit to take an early 9-2 lead.
Pacific would fight back to grab their first lead of the game at 15-14 following back-to-back three-pointers from 6-foot-8 junior forward Tony Grill. However, consecutive three-pointers from senior Brandon Pokley would give the Broncos a four point lead, causing 25-year Pacific head coach Bob Thomason to call a timeout with 7:54 left in the first half.
The game continued to go in spurts as the Broncos ended the first half on a 7-0 run, as they went into the locker room sustaining a four-point edge.
Things got much more physical in the second half as the intensity picked up between both teams. Following a Shayne Whittington block and Nate Hutcheson long-range shot, the Broncos extended their advantage back to 56-49 mid-way through the second half, tied for their largest lead of the game.
Pacific quickly narrowed the gap though and within minutes regained the lead. The two teams kept battling back and forth down the stretch as the Broncos finally began to pull away late.
After a Steve Hawkins timeout with 1:00 remaining, the Broncos had possession of the ball, missed a shot, and the ball dribbled out of bounds with a fortunate bounce off of a Pacific player with just 31.3 seconds remaining, leaving the Tigers no option but to foul. WMU retained possession with no shot clock up 64-62, and closed the game out at the free throw line.
"I can't wait to see us further down when we have more experience," said junior guard David Brown. "I thought we handled this experience really well and we're just sticking together. The team chemistry is just amazing and everybody is always picking each other up. Everybody has face in each other. Team chemistry is something that we're really riding, and we're riding it well."
Brown finished with 11 points, while Shayne Whittington and Darius Paul finished with 14 points and 13 points respectively. Pacific's Tony Gill led all scorers with 18 points, 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
Shayne Whittington had two blocks making him tied for sixth all-time at Western Michigan. Whittington becomes the first player to have 40 blocks in a season since Donald Lawson accomplished the feat in 2009.
Also noteworthy in recruiting news, 2013 guard prospect DeMarkus Stuckey (Grand Rapids, MI), 2014 forward/center DaRohn Scott, and 2015 center Seth Dugan were in attendance for today's game. BroncoBlitz.com interviewed Scott at halftime and will have updates later on regarding his recruitment with the Broncos.
The Broncos return to conference play this Wednesday at Toledo.