WMU beats CMU 71-68, next stop Cleveland

The Western Michigan Broncos (19-11, 10-6) beat the Central Michigan Chippewas (11-19, 4-12) 71-68 in front of 3,303 fans at University Arena.
It began as an emotional start to the day as seniors Dan Loney, Brandon Pokley, and Nate Hutcheson were honored at half-court before the tip-off with their families along with head coach Steve Hawkins. Loney, who is not typically part of the starting unit, got the nod in place of usual starting freshman forward Darius Paul.
Western Michigan jumped out to an early 10-6 lead Saturday afternoon as redshirt junior center Shayne Whittington scored all of the Broncos first ten points.
WMU opened up their biggest lead of the game to that point after an acrobatic layup by Darius Paul with 8:14 left in the first half to go up 23-13.
However, the Chips fought back closing out the first half on a 25-11 run taking the life out of University Arena. CMU led 38-34 at halftime, thanks in large part to CMU point guard Kyle Randall's 18 first half points. The Chips shot 53% from behind the arc in the first half.
CMU continued shooting the ball from deep as Blake Hibbitts opened up the second half with a three-ball giving the Chips their largest lead of the game at 43-34. The Broncos quickly responded after a Brandon Pokley three-pointer brought them to within just two points with 16:19 to play.
A Connar Tava layup with 9:36 remaining gave the Broncos a 55-53 lead, and the MAC West champions never looked back. Consecutive three-point buckets by senior Brandon Pokley forced Keno Davis and the Chips to call a timeout with 7:50 left in the game, trailing 61-53.
A Darius Paul alley-oop dunk to Shayne Whittington with 4:47 left helped spark the Broncos to a six point lead. After two missed free-throws by Whittington, David Brown fumbled the ball away after what appeared to be an easy fast-break layup.
On the ensuing Bronco possession, Nate Hutcheson hit a deep three-pointer to put WMU ahead by 5 points, however it was Kyle Randall once again burying one from long-range to bring the Chips to back within two points.
After Brown split a pair of free-throws, Central Michigan gained possession of the ball with just 23 seconds left. Kyle Randall scored a layup with 13 seconds left and CMU immediately fouled Nate Hutcheson, who made both free-throws on the other end. After a failed three-point attempt by Randall with no time remaining, the Broncos were finally able to clinch the victory.
Shayne Whittington finished the game with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while senior shooting guard Brandon Pokley scored 15 points on 5-7 shooting from behind the arc.
Kyle Randall finished with a game-high 33 points.
The Broncos finished 19-11 (10-6) on the season in a year where they were picked to finish 3rd in the MAC West. Their next game will be on Thursday, March 14th at 9:00 p.m. in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.
Head to the premium forum "The Zoo" to see what recruits made the trip to Kalamazoo on Saturday.
Follow BroncoBlitz on Facebook and Twitter!