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Western Michigan Broncos vs. Ohio Bobcats Recap: Broncos hold on 80-69

The Broncos survived a second-half surge to remain in striking distance of the best in the MAC West.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

On December 18, Ohio was narrowly defeated by the Evansville Aces to drop the Bobcats' record to 3-4. It seemed like an innocuous defeat- yes, Ohio was below .500, but they had lost some close games to some good teams. With a new, improved head coach and plenty of talented players, Ohio seemed like a sure bet to bounce back over the course of the season.

But they didn't. As hard as they tried, Saul Phillip's squad would never reach .500 again after that night in Indiana. While the season might not be over, Ohio's 80-69 loss to Western Michigan guarantees a losing season for the boys in green and white. It will be the Bobcats' first losing season since the 2008-09 season, when they finished 15-17.

The Broncos may have finished with an 11 point lead, but for most of the game it was a fight to the finish. Western Michigan drew first blood with a Thomas Wilder jumper. Ohio responded with a Javarez Willis 3-pointer. Drake LaMont sank his shot to make it 4-3. Antonio Campbell stuck his floater to make it 5-4. The largest lead of the half was 7, when a Lamont layup made it 26-19, Broncos. But the Bobcats fought back thanks to the rebounding prowess of Maurice Ndour and some strong shooting by Willis. Treg Setty hit a shot from the lane with 34 seconds left to make it 38-36 Broncos, which would hold until halftime.

It was an exciting half of basketball for all in attendance at the University Arena. There were plenty of fast breaks, turnovers, strong shooting and no large leads. Both teams continued to entertain into the second half as well. Ohio failed to score for the first two minutes but held the Broncos to just two points as well. Down 42-38, a 3-pointer from Ryan Taylor made it a 1 point game. When WMU pulled ahead 49-43, a couple of buckets from Campbell and a jumper from Setty made it 49 all.

The Broncos seemed as though they were trapped in a horror movie: unable to get away from their opponent no matter what. That, like a horror movie, finally changed in the end. After Ohio's Ryan Taylor hit a 3-pointer to put the Bobcats up 67-65 with 6 minutes to play, WMU went on a 11-0 run that lasted 5 minutes. In the 7 possessions Ohio had in that time frame, 4 ended in turnovers and 3 with missed shots. By the time the dry spell was ended by a pair of Ndour free throws, Ohio was down 76-69 with less than a minute remaining. The game was all but over.

The Broncos narrowly outshot the Bobcats 51.9% to 47.5%, but were helped by a balanced offensive attack, a 36-23 rebounding advantage and forcing the turnovers at key moments (the Broncos actually turned the ball over more than the Bobcats).

Connar Tava and David Brown were the only Broncos starters with more than 10 points, but WMU was boosted by Kellen McCormick (12 points) and Austin Richie (19 points) coming off the bench. Tava also led both teams with 7 rebounds.

For the Bobcats, Willis had another strong performance- 21 points, although he did commit 4 turnovers. Campbell and Ndour had 10 and 12 points, respectively, but only combined for 11 rebounds- a somewhat paltry amount for the two big men. Setty was the big bench man for Ohio, with 11 points and 3 assists.

Game Leaders

Points A. Richie (19) J. Willis (21)
Rebounds C. Tava (7) M. Ndour (6)
Assists T. Wilder (4) 2 tied (3)
Blocks D. LaMont (2) 3 tied (1)
Steals T. Wilder (2) M. Ndour (2)