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Western Michigan Broncos vs. Northern Illinois Huskies men's basketball final score: Austin Richie returns, Broncos win 69-65

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Western Michigan was just good enough on Valentine's Day to hold off a pesky NIU squad. Austin Richie returned to action for the Broncos; his first since January 21st.

Austin Richie In A Game vs. Northwestern Wildcats
Austin Richie In A Game vs. Northwestern Wildcats
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Richie Is back

Since January 21, Western Michigan Broncos fans have been asking an important question: "When?" As in, when will Austin Richie be back? At the 14:45 mark in the first half of Saturday's contest vs the Northern Illinois Huskies those fans got their answer. Richie checked in to what was a well-deserved standing ovation as the Bronco faithful welcomed their senior starter back into the lineup.

Broncos Shake Off Rocky Start. Just Hold Off NIU For Win

NIU appeared to be a strong contender for an upset of WMU on this Valentine's day edition of MACsketball as they entered the locker room after the first half up 41 - 37. The Huskies were led by Anthony Johnson, who simply could not miss, with 11 points in the first half, shredding any hopes that there would be a spark for the brown and gold with Austin Richie returning to the floor. The second half tells a much different story. NIU turned the ball over on its opening possession, and from that point forward the game seemed to shift from up-and-down to the methodical half-court tempo that WMU executes so well. As the game slowed down further, the Broncos hung around finally taking their first lead of the second half at 11:05 to play on a Kellen McCormick three pointer to make it 49-47. That lead switch proved to be final as WMU did not surrender a lead or tie for the remainder of the contest in Kalamazoo,

Top Performers

David Brown led WMU with 17 points. though he was much quieter after hitting three triple tries early in the game. Tucker Haymond turned in 16 points and 7 boards for the brown and gold, doing a majority of his damage from the free throw line where he was 9 of 10. Jordan Threloff was a tough guard down low for WMU, pitching in 15 points along with 15 more rebounds. Anthony Johnson ended with 13 points for NIU.

Important Notes

A 56 combined point second half is what followed up the 78 point first half in Kalamazoo. It was clear NIU wanted to keep the ball moving and force WMU into a tempo game that just isn't their style. However, NIU failed to make enough jump shots in the second half to pull WMU out of its half court tempo. Anthony Johnson's slow-down in the second half had much to do with this, adding only two more points to his total after an 11 point first half.

AJ Avery only logged 18 minutes in Saturday night's game, but he provided a rebounding edge that the Broncos plainly have not had all season. In his short time on the floor Avery pulled down 10 boards to go along with 6 points going 4 of 6 from the free throw line. Avery's above the rim presence extended WMU possessions on the offensive end and limited the productivity of big and skilled Jordan Threloff on the defensive end.

Austin Richie returned to action for the first time since January 21st, but was very quiet in this one. Richie, who previously averaged just over 11 points per game coming into Saturday's game, failed to score a single point on 0 of 7 shooting from the field (6 from behind the arc).

WMU takes on the Ohio Bobcats in Kalamazoo on February 18 at 7:00 pm while NIU travels to Mount Pleasant to take on Central Michigan on the same date at 7:00 pm

Game Leaders

Player Western Michigan Northern Illinois
Points D. Brown (17) J. Threloff (15)
Rebounds A. Avery (10) J. Threloff(15)
Assists T. Haymond (3) T. Baker (2)
Blocks T. Perry (1) J. Treloff (2)
Steals 4 tied with1 3 tied with 2