Jimond Ivey scored 23 the last time out for the Zips. He started this game equally hot, scoring 8 points by the first TV timeout at 14:01, on 4-6 shooting. Akron led 13-11.
Shortly after they got back on the floor, the Broncos Bryce Moore hit a three to give the Broncos the lead, 14-13. This exchange would foreshadow how the rest of the game would go.
At the 7:17 break, the score was tied 17-17. That was better news for the Broncos, because the trio of leaders, Thomas Wilder, Drake Lamont and Tucker Haymond combined for 3-11 from the floor.
Shortly after the break, Lamont hit a bucket to put the Broncos up, but that was short lived, as Tavin Dunn-Martin hit a pair of 3s to give Akron the lead. The Broncos battled back, and went up 32-29 on a Reggie Jones dunk. Kwan Cheatham Jr. hit a 3 as time expired, and the teams went into the half tied 32-32. After the Broncos took the lead 14-13, neither team had a lead of more than one possession the rest of the half.
After starting off on fire, Ivey didn’t take another shot the till much later in the game.
The halftime stats were as close as the score. WMU shot 46.4% while Akron shot 45.2%. Both teams had 16 rebounds.
The pair of freshman that look to be the future of the Broncos had a good first half. Reggie Jones scored 9 and Brandon Johnson 4. They combined for 6-8 shooting.
Kwan Cheatham led Akron with 9. Isaiah Johnson added 4 points and 7 rebounds.
Tucker Haymond and Thomas Wilder heated up after halftime, and helped the Broncos take a 6 point lead with 14:54 to go.
Isaiah Johnson also heated up, and the Zips battled back. Ivey took his first shot since early in the first half, and dropped a three. The Zips led 53-48 with 7:44 left.
The Broncos didn’t go quietly into the night. The Broncos hit a three to go up 54-51.
The Zips battled right back, and took the lead 58-54.
After taking a timeout with 2 minutes and change left, Brandon Johnson was able to get a put back to close within 2. Isaiah Johnson turned the ball over, and Wilder was able to tie it up in the low post.
Cheatham answered with a 3, Jones couldn’t, and Cheatham got the rebound. He was fouled, and hit both free throws to put the Zips up 5 with less than a minute to go.
The final score was 66-59 after a couple more free throws.
The Broncos played a good game, but missed 5 free throws late, when the game was in doubt, that they will be kicking themselves about for years to come. They finished the game 5-13 from the charity stripe.
The Zips did what they do. The only knock on them this game was from beyond the arc, where they shot 24%.
The Zips out rebounded the Broncos, 28-24. The Broncos had 9 turnovers and 18 fouls. The Zips had 12 and 16, respectively.
Thomas Wilder had 17 for the Broncos, and Haymond added 13.
Isaiah Johnson scored 16 and grabbed 13 boards for the Zips. Cheatham Jr. added 13, including the three that sealed the win.
The Broncos haven’t put together a complete game many times this season. The new faces carried them the first half, and the veterans the second. I keep saying this, but once this team puts it together, they will be a good team. With the way college basketball is structured, you are never out of it until tournament time, so it is good news for the Broncos.
There will be some that look at how OU beat the Broncos, and how Akron did tonight, and think that means a lot. Not this guy. Akron still gets my first place vote in our power rankings.
Akron moved to 12-3 on the season, and plays at Central Michigan on Tuesday, the 10th.
Western moved to 4-10 on the season and hosts Toledo on Tuesday.