It's been awhile since someone other than Akron or Ohio has represented the MAC in the NCAA Tournament. That ended tonight as the Western Michigan Broncos took Toledo out to the woodshed, beating them by twenty-one points to earn the MAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Western Michigan started out the game up 24-14 early and looked in control. Even though Connar Tava was in foul trouble the Broncos still were able to hold a lead throughout the entire first half. One noticeable advantage the Broncos had was on the glass, as they out-rebounded Toledo 24-13. That number was helped out by Toledo center Nathan Boothe's foul trouble. With Boothe on the bench with two fouls, Toledo didn't have anyone on the floor to match up with Shayne Whittington's size.
David Brown completely took over the first half scoring sixteen. It seemed like he couldn't miss and Toledo had nothing to stop him. Tucker Haymond, the unsung hero of the tournament, had a great half as well putting up eleven points.
Rian Pearson really kept the Rockets alive in the first half scoring sixteen to match Brown. Julius Brown chipped in eleven and had four assists. The Rockets did do a good job of turning the Broncos over in the first half, forcing six and getting six points off of those turnovers.
Western Michigan opened the second half on an 8-2 run to push the lead to eight. It would stay there for a little bit until Jordan Lauf's lay-up cut the lead to three with fifteen minutes to go. The momentum seemed to be heading the Rockets way and you would have thought Toledo's athleticism would start to take over.
That was not the case, as Western Michigan answered back with their own 8-0 run aided by a pair of threes from David Brown and Tucker Haymond. That was as close as the Rockets would get as every time Toledo tried to claw back into it Western Michigan would answer.
The Broncos were on fire on offense in the second half and just wouldn't let up. They shot 19-28 from the field in the second half, a 68% clip. That's including going 4-6 from deep which was all Brown and Haymond. Western Michigan also did what was most important when trying to protect a second-half lead: make free throws. The Broncos went 21-28 for the entire game and made them when they mattered.
David Brown finished with 32 points and was named the tournament MVP, rightfully so after scoring 48 points in two games. Whittington could have been MVP too, but he made most of his plays on the defensive end. There were countless times that Whittington deflected shots and key blocks, leading to fast break opportunities. Haymond finished with a career high twenty-one and is quickly becoming a key part of the Broncos' rotation.
In the end, experience won out. The Broncos duo of seniors Brown and Whittington dominated in every phase of the game. Veteran teams win big games and Western Michigan has that kind of team. Brown, Richie, and Whittington have played together for three years and Tava and Haymond, even though they are new, seem to fit right in. They're a team that knows how to play together and can play with anyone.
The Broncos will find out who they play tomorrow night at six. Whoever that is better watch out, because this Broncos team can sneak up on someone.