I remember my first WMU basketball game. It was against Michigan, and I was little. I don't remember much about it, but I was a Bronco for sure.
I remember my first game as a student. I skipped my Algebra class because I already knew the material and it was against VCU, who had just upset Duke two seasons prior in the NCAA Tournament. They were led by a stud forward in Larry Sanders and a young coach named Shaka Smart. The Broncos won 83-67 behind a career game from Martelle McLemore. He had 22 points to go with David Kool's 17, and he also shut down Sanders to the tune of 7 points and 7 assists.
Like the Michigan/Western Michigan game, I don't remember certain details. I don't remember the flow of the game. I don't remember a freshman named Shayne Whittington playing 3 minutes off the bench. But I remember a young guard wearing #25 having a certain swag about him on such an experienced roster. That guard was David Brown, and he finished with 4 points that night. It was our first home game at University Arena, and those were his first career points.
Six full seasons later, we've both graduated. He's a graduate student while I work my day job. Yet, on Wednesday evening, we went out the same way we started: court level at a Bronco home game. 1,533 points and 133 games later, we said goodbye to an era, in a way that left much to be desired.
"I'm leaving here with a ring, which is something a lot of people who've went to Western (Michigan) can't say (they have)," Brown said after the game.
The Broncos came out alright, truth be told. They took an early 5-3 lead, before the Vikings caught fire and went on a 23-6 run. But Western Michigan responded to close the gap, only to have it erased by Cleveland State again, led by Charlie Lee's hot hand.
However, when the Broncos answered with a 9-0 run to pull within 26-20 midway through the 1st half, Lee and company truly turned it on and took total control of the game. The senior guard would hit three straight 3-pointers to make it a 35-20 game. Western Michigan would never get within double digits after that, as the Vikings used a 10-1 run to push the closest deficit from 11 up to 20 before the half.
The first eight minutes of the second half started much like the end of the first, with Cleveland State shooting 9-for-12 from the floor while the Broncos shot 1-for-8. It was never closer than a 20-point game after the first dung by Trey Lewis to open the scoring in the half. In the end, the final tally was Cleveland State 86, Western Michigan 57.
Brown finished his career with a 10 point outing, albeit on a bad shooting night. Fellow senior Austin Richie, the lone signee remaining from a small 2011 class, had 6 points and 2 assists, but also had 4 turnovers. As a team, Western Michigan shot 31% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arch.
The Vikings moved on using Lee's shooting, as he finished 8-for-11 from beyond the arch, setting a career high for three's made in a game. Teammate Anton Grady had a double-double at the half (16 pts, 10 boards) and finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. As a team, Cleveland State shot 56.7% from the floor and 52% from 3-point range, with both numbers seeming to fall after reserves were placed in. (At the under-12 timeout, they were 66% from the floor and 61% from three while leading 71-38).
That's all I really have to say about the game. I can go on-and-on about Brown, but I'm just going to play the song below and let the final string to the full tenure of my college career walk-off into the sunset as a hero who took the team from nothing in 2012 to a CBI semi-final in 2013 and a MAC Championship last year.
Here's to you David Brown. Thank you for the memories, from VCU to Ohio, the last home game that matters in the NCAA's eyes.