When bitter rivals meet, chaos is sure to ensue.
With six seconds left on the clock in overtime, Central Michigan's Shawn Roundtree's layup was rejected out of bounds by Western Michigan shooting guard Reggie Jones. In a game where teams exchanged blows like unwanted gifts at a White Elephant event, only six seconds remained for Central Michigan to respond to a two-point deficit. There was a scrum for the ball in the paint and the Chippewas kept firing away shots, but none of them sunk through the lace of the net.
Western Michigan (16-12, 8-7 MAC) claimed a tough-fought 83-81 victory in its own gym in Kalamazoo over archrival Central Michigan (16-12, 5-10 MAC) on Tuesday night. Point guard Thomas Wilder put on a show for all 45 minutes of clock time, finishing with a near-triple double of 22 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. Of these 22 points, 11 of them were obtained in a high-scoring overtime period. But no bucket of Wilder's was more crucial than his unlikely and-one with 14 seconds left.
Wilder couldn't find an open man to pass the ball to with the clock running down, so the point guard lobbed a contested shot from the baseline and drew contact. Both his field goal attempt and his free throw landed in the cylinder, converting an 81-80 deficit into an 83-81 lead to create the sixth lead change of overtime alone.
The in-state rivals entered overtime tied at 69 apiece, but a two-sided offensive barrage elevated the score into the 80s. It was in this period where Central Michigan obtained its first lead since 5-4, thanks to a Kevin McKay dunk with 3:10 left. But before the Wilder shot, a lively sequence featuring a successful corner three from Jones (WMU) and a Luke Meyer (CMU) layup from the left side injected even more energy into University Arena in Kalamazoo.
The final minutes of regulation brought the intensity, too. The Broncos led 65-58 with 4:21 left, but a Roundtree-led run rallied the Chippewas back into the game. And with five seconds left in the second half, McKay's clutch gene was on full display as the point guard drilled two game-altering free throws to send it into the extra period.
Western Michigan led for the majority of the contest, thanks to a 10-0 run in the opening minutes. The Broncos managed to escape with the close victory in a game where the teams were nearly equal in every statistical category. Although the teams didn't fare well on field goals during regulation, the free throw shooting was impeccable (31-of-36 combined), with both teams grabbing every easy point they could get.
But Wilder's squad scored on one extra basket late, and Central Michigan's offense was unable to capitalize under the hoop in the waning moments. Wilder's final three-point play, paired together with Jones' emphatic block will create a memorable sequence in this rivalry series — a series in which Western Michigan has won 13 of the last 16 contests.
With the victory, Western Michigan regains a winning conference record, while Central Michigan ties with Ohio, Northern Illinois, and Akron for the MAC's worst league standing. Both teams must pack their bags and leave the state, as Ball State awaits the Broncos and Toledo presents the Chippewas' next road challenge.