There is no team that has Western Michigan's number quite like the Akron Zips. Scratch that. There's no team that had Western Michigan's number quite like the Akron Zips.
The Broncos rode an 18-0 run in the second half to bring the game to overtime and eventually pulled it out in overtime, ensuring that Akron would not appear in the MAC Tournament Championship for the first time in seven years. Shayne Whittington was completely dominant on both ends, scoring eighteen and collecting thirteen rebounds.
David Brown came back from an awful first half to score sixteen, aided by a 6-8 mark from the free throw line. Brown went 1-7 in the first half and at one point was 1-10 from the field. That changed in overtime where Brown exploded for nine points including an improbable banked in three-pointer with the shot clock expiring. That shot put the Broncos up five with thirty seconds to play and effectively sealed the victory. In fact, Brown outscored the entire Akron team in overtime 9-8.
If you watched the first twenty minutes of the game only, seeing the final score probably baffled you. The first half was all Akron as the Zips were raining threes and creating turnovers. The Zips had seven points off turnovers to Western Michigan's zero, a stat that really showed the pace of the game. Western Michigan wanted to slow it down while Akron wanted the opposite, and that led to a few breakouts where Akron had a huge advantage.
Rebounding was yet another statistic that Akron dominated in the first half, grabbing twenty-one boards to Western Michigan's thirteen. There was one possession where it seemed like Akron had the ball for two minutes straight. They kept getting tip-out rebound after tip-out rebound and it seemed like the Zips wouldn't give the ball up.
Everything flipped in the second half.
Western Michigan made one huge change at halftime, and it won them the game. They turned up the heat on defense, pressuring the ball no matter who had it and doubling the post. That led Akron right into turnover situations, and as this team has been wont to do this season they graciously gave it up. Akron's eight turnovers in the second half were due to the pressure Western Michigan put on them, and the Zips couldn't handle it.
It certainly didn't help that Akron went 2-10 from the free throw line in the second half. Free throw woes finally caught up with the Zips as they've been skating by this year by not being an even average free throw shooting team. It's obvious, but if the Zips make one more free throw they win this game.
Meanwhile Western Michigan did everything it needed to do late in the game and in overtime to seal the victory. Brown was huge, but Tucker Haymond was the one to provide a spark when the Broncos needed it. Haymond's two threes were instrumental in the Broncos' run and gave Western Michigan someone other than Whittington, Brown and Connar Tava to look to. As the Zips weren't getting it done from the charity stripe the Broncos were, ending up 15-19. What's amazing is that Western Michigan shot ten free throws in overtime (making seven) which was more than they had shot the entire first forty minutes.
While there weren't many positives to take away for the Zips, Demetrius Treadwell ended up with fifteen points and eight rebounds. Quincy Diggs put up thirteen on just 4-15 shooting in what may be his last game ever. Deji Ibitayo really came on as well scoring fourteen on 4-5 shooting from deep.
Western Michigan's win also led to this:
The Western Michigan win secures us having an All West Division Final here in Cleveland. Last time it happened: 1996 (EMU v UT)— Jeremy Guy (@JGuyMAC) March 15, 2014
The Broncos will play either Toledo or Eastern Michigan in the finals. Western Michigan split the season series between both teams so it'll be sure to be a good game. Meanwhile, Akron will likely end up in a post-season tournament like the CBI or CIT. It's a chance to win more games, but sure won't be the tournament that Akron really wanted to be in.