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Broncos Storm Back, Down Akron 57-54 At Home

Despite trailing most of the game, the Western Michigan Broncos overcame tough shooing and multiple turnovers to down the Akron Zips 57-54 for the first time since February 2008.

Gregory Shamus

"It was a bloodbath out there," Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins said after his team's 57-54 victory over Akron Wednesday night.  And he was right.  In a tough, physical battle which saw both teams struggle to put up points, his Broncos overcame a 12 point deficit to down the Zips for the first time in six years.

Both teams came out cold, as the two combined for just nine points in the first 10 minutes.  However, a Quincy Diggs 3-pointer would spark the rest of a 17-3 run that saw the Zips jump out to a 19-7 lead with 6:31 to go in the first half.  The Zips would eventually hold that lead to the half when lead by eight at the half in a 28-20 contest.  Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell was a monster down on the block, scoring 10 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.

But the Broncos were hanging tough.  Connar Tava netted 8 points himself while trying to keep his team in the game despite 11 first half turnovers.  And when the Zips took a 10 point lead two minutes into the second half, his Bronco team woke up with senior guard David Brown seemingly coming to the rescue with big man Shayne Whittington working down low.

Brown, who had to switch jerseys mid-game due to blood, donned the #24 and proceeded to drive his way to to the line, helping chip away at the lead.  Meanwhile, Whittington woke up after a quiet first half to lay siege to the Zip big men Isaiah Johnson and Pat Forsythe to the tune of a big 13 points while grabbing five rebounds in the half.

And yet, while the Broncos did work back into the thick of things, they were unable to take the lead as Treadwell played solid low post defense while hitting a couple key shots.  However, Brown was finally able to burst through the stingy Zip defense for a hard earned lay-up to take the lead with 1:16 left, only their 2nd lead all night.  Brown came through again, when after a pair of Diggs free-throws, was able to draw a foul on Treadwell with one second left on the shot clock.  His free-throws gave the Broncos a two point lead that would be enough after Kwan Cheatham missed a corner 3-pointer for the win.

Brown finished with a game-high 17 points and added 6 rebounds and 4 steals while Whittington finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds.  Treadwell put up a solid double-double performance with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while adding 3 steals and 2 blocks.  Diggs was the next highest scorer for the Zips, putting up just 9 points.

As a whole the Broncos didn't score a single point from the bench, with Tava and Tucker Haymond adding 12 points each and Austin Richie hitting a single free-throw.  They also survived a 17 turnover effort by forcing 15 turnovers from Akron and drawing 19 fouls.  The Broncos also shot a much better 47.8% from the field in the second half while holding Akron as a whole to 33.3% for the game.

With the win, the Broncos move into a three-way tie for the 2nd place spot in the MAC, a game behind Toledo after their victory over Ohio on Wednesday.  Western Michigan is tied with Akron and Buffalo, who walloped the Broncos just a couple weeks ago.  With just 7 games remaining, both teams will look to gain as much ground as possible to hold onto one of the key double-byes to the semi-finals in the MAC Tournament.

Western Michigan will stay at home to take on the shockingly decent Miami RedHawks on Saturday, with tip time set for 4:30 p.m., with a possible change as the women's team will be in action prior to the men.  Meanwhile, Akron returns home to take on an equally surprising Northern Illinois team, as they again return to the JAR following an upsetting three-point defeat in the prior game.  Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m.