Shayne Whittington had himself a game. After a somewhat down season so far, the senior big man finally came out in full force on Sunday in Western Michigan's 62-53 victory over Ball State.
"I want to show myself every week [how good I can be], but sometimes it just doesn't happen. I got back to my fundamentals after getting outside of myself the past few weeks, and it helped us out a lot."
In just his 7th double-double of the season, Whittington put up season highs in points (21) and rebounds (15), while leading the team in assists and keeping Cardinal big man Majok Majok in check most of the game. His 5 offensive rebounds were huge in a game where neither team made many shots.
After struggling in the first half, the Broncos came out strong in the second. They forced multiple turnovers by trapping the young Cardinal guards at the top of the key and disrupted the Ball State offense en route to grabbing a 13 point lead mid-way through the 2nd half. Neither team shot better than 37% on the day, and numerous players were in foul trouble, including Majok and Bronco freshman Tucker Haymond, who saw his return to the starting line-up on Sunday.
However, the Cardinals would fight back, with Majok coming alive. The big man would single-handedly seem to bring Ball State back into the game with both a solid defensive presence that kept the Broncos off the board, while grabbing key rebounds and even throwing down a vicious slam on the offense end. After making a lay-up, he had closed the gap to 5 points, and Western Michigan was forced to call timeout.
After another Bronco run, this time a 6-0 run in which both Whittington and Connar Tava both made fast-break scores at the rim with the help of David Brown on the trap, the Cardinals again made a run to close the gap to 5, starting with a Majok tip-in with 5 minutes to go.
However, that would be the last field goal the Cardinals would make the rest of the game, as Zavier Turner and Chris Bond would hit 6 free-throws down the stretch, but it wasn't enough to overcome a solid Bronco defense and clutch free-throw shooting from Haymond and Brown.
The first half saw both teams struggle to score, but Ball State would eventually take advantage, running out to a 5 point lead with 12:23 to go in the half on a Jesse Berry 3-pointer. Both teams would go spurts without making a basket, and after the Berry 3, neither team would make a shot for another 4 minutes before Tava would make a lay-up.
The teams would then go back-and-forth, trading the leads and tying the game up before a Turner 3 pointer with 2 minutes to go gave the Cardinals the lead into halftime. Ball State would shoot 30.8% from beyond the arch in the half, and forced 10 Bronco turnovers, key factors in gaining the lead after 20 minutes. The improved defensive play by the Broncos, and smart play on offense, allowed the Broncos to jump out to their lead to start the 2nd half, where they'd lead the rest of the way.
With the win, the Broncos are now 11-7 and 4-2 in the MAC, just a half a game back of Toledo, who at the time of posting was just getting underway against Kent State. The Cardinals fall to 4-13 and 1-5 in the MAC. Both teams continue cross-over play next week, as Ball State head to Akron to take on the Zips while the Broncos head to Buffalo to take on Javon McCrea and the Bulls.