KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP)—Gary Patterson scored a game-high 16 points in his season debut, leading IUPUI to a 76-68 victory over Western Michigan on Saturday.
Patterson broke his hand in practice in late October, and didn't return until practice Thursday. He hit 6-of-11 shots and had a career-high eight assists as IUPUI (4-2) won on a Mid-American Conference team's home court for the first time in school history.
David Kool, Shawntes Gary and Martelle McLemore each scored 15 points for Western Michigan (2-5), which lost its second consecutive home game for the first time since 2001.
Leroy Nobles added 15 points for IUPUI, and Jon Avery had 14 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.
IUPUI made 72.7 percent of its shots in the second half, making 16-of-22, including 5-of-6 by Patterson. Western Michigan cut a 19-point deficit to four with 40 seconds left, but four free throws by John Ashworth down the stretch preserved IUPUI's win.
Quotes and Analysis
Last year the Broncos traveled to Indianapolis to take on an IUPUI led by current San Antonio Spurs starter George Hill. IUPUI won that game by 8 points. So naturally head coach Ron Hunter must be in rebuilding mode, right?
Not according to Ron Hunter. "Western lost to a good basketball team," stated Hunter. We believe we can win our league. We were forced to play some young guys early, and as I told our young guys, sometimes it's not about talent it's what's between your ears, and you just got to hope they're going to figure it out. Seventy-five percent of this game is between the ears."
Not only has Hunter got a young team to produce early, but his best player, fifth year senior Gary Patterson was just cleared on Wednesday to begin practice, after breaking his wrist earlier in the year. On two days practice Patterson managed 16 points and 8 assists, and literally carved up the Bronco defense.
"We entered this year with a chip on our shoulder," stated Hunter. "We wanted to prove to people we could win without George Hill. We've got three starters who've won a lot of basketball games, and I knew we could win with those guys and without George Hill. I love George Hill, but we can win games without him."
IUIUP and Ron Hunter have begun their season as Hunter predicted, and in some respects WMU has begun it's season as Steve Hawkins predicted. Hawkins expected growing pains and he's seen just that. The question for most Bronco fans is when do the growing pains stop and the results begin to manifest themselves?
So what went wrong for the Broncos?
"Our game plan was to make them take a lot of long shots," said Hunter, "and it worked out for us."
According to Hawkins the Broncos couldn't solve the zone, and were forced into taking those long shots.
"When we couldn't solve the zone and get it inside we were taking a lot of long shots and we weren't hitting them," said Hawkins. "The more we missed the more confident they got. They're very athletic and they began to run off those misses and that opened up a big lead for them."
At the 4:07 mark the Broncos trailed by 19 points, 66-47. At that point WMU went to a full court trap and saw their biggest momentum shift of the game. In the span of 3 minutes and 20 seconds the Broncos cut the 19 point Jaguar lead down to four, trailing 69-65.
With a deep bench like the Broncos have, and some proven success with the trap, we asked Hawkins if he'd consider putting in the trap earlier and more often? His answer was quite clear.
"No. For starters depth really doesn't help in trapping because it's not about fatigue. We had success at the end with the trap, but when they broke it they pulled the ball out. If we go to the trap earlier I'm afraid we see a lot of easy lay ups."
Cold shooting was the other thorn in the Bronco's side. Most notably, the cold shooting of star guard David Kool. When asked to comment on Kool's recent shooting woes Hawkins alluded that there may be some things going on with DK that he doesn't want to share with the public. Whether those are physical/health issues, or personal issues is uncertain.
While it's not yet time for Bronco fans to panic, it may be getting close. For a team picked to win the MAC West, they are simply not playing consistently well enough to accomplish that task.
Defensively the Broncos disappeared in the second half as the Jaguars shot 73% from the field and a 100% from three. Hawkins spoke to that.
"I can't say it was just the defense, a lot of it was they got hot, and were making shots they hadn't made in earlier games. You know I read the message boards--don't get me started on the message boards, but I hear people say, why don't you play a zone more often? We played zone three possessions and and they hit two threes. That's why I don't play a zone. I also thought the young kids got passive on defense and IUPUI jumped on that, so I pulled them out. We have to establish a defensive identity with those young kids."
While it may be too early for Hawkins to panic, some things are happening that haven't happened in a long time. The Broncos have not lost back to back home games in forever, and when they have it's been to programs that the average fan views as "very good." If the Broncos don't turn this around soon, particularly at home, the loyal fan base may start to take notice.
The other concern for Hawkins is a lack of an interior game. Lawson and Lowe went 3-9 from the field and pulled down 2 rebounds. Without a legit post up game inside defenses are going to put even more pressure on the perimeter and make it even harder for Kool to score.
Finally, quite often the Bronco freshmen have been put on the floor as a group, and with limited success. Look for Hawkins to try and sprinkle them in with the vets rather than play them as a unit.
On a positive note Martell Mclemore has had solid back to back games, going 4-5 and 11 points in Texas, and pumping in 15 points tonight on 5-8 shooting. If this becomes a pattern, Hawkins may need to adjust his lineup to get him additional minutes.
Next up for the 2-5 Broncos, three road games. Last years NCAA Cinderella Virginia Commonwealth, followed by always tough Holy Cross, and then a very good UNLV team.
Hawkins toughest job between now and the opening MAC game, may be keeping his team believing in themselves. The next 30 days may very well set the tone for the rest of the season.