Men’s basketball: Strong second-half performance lifts Broncos past Bobcats

Austin Richie tied a career-high with 22 points, David Brown added 20 points and five steals, and the Western Michigan Broncos defeated the Ohio Bobcats, 90-74, at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Wednesday night.

Despite getting off to a slow start, the Broncos closed the first half on a 10-0 run. A three-point play by Brown and a 3-pointer from Richie gave the Broncos a 37-36 halftime lead.

At the beginning of the second half, the Bobcats (16-6, 6-3 MAC) were able to keep the game close. Three-point makes from Maurice Ndour and Travis Wilkins, and layups from Stevie Taylor and Nick Kellogg helped the ‘Cats earn a 52-50 lead with 10:49 left to play.

Even though the Broncos traded baskets with the Bobcats for a majority of the second half, it finally started to pull away. Richie buried another 3-pointer and Shayne Whittington, who finished with 18 points and five rebounds, finished off a three-point play to give the Broncos a 64-57 lead with 7:45 left in the game.

“They (Western Michigan) were able to pound the ball inside and drive to the basket,” Ohio coach Jim Christian said in the Ohio IMG Sports Network radio show. “It didn’t matter what we tried during the game.”

The Broncos (13-8, 6-3 MAC) continued to build their lead late in the second half. Layups from Connar Tava and Taylor Perry increased the Broncos’ lead to 80-69 with 2:33 remaining in the game.

“There is no question that our defense in the second half was the worst it’s been all season,” Christian said. “We were bad in all facets on defense.”

In the beginning of the game, the Bobcats got off to a solid start. Kellogg and Ndour combined to score Ohio’s first 15 points, and the Bobcats held a 15-11 lead with 11:48 left in the first half.

“I thought we played all right in the first 10 minutes of the game,” Christian said. “After that, they changed the game. They made good plays on the interior.”

Following the second media timeout, the ‘Cats started to increase their lead. A 3-pointer from the left corner by Treg Setty and two 3-pointers from Bean Willis made the score 25-16 in favor of the Bobcats with 7:45 left until halftime. The nine combined points during that stretch of the game were the only points Setty and Willis scored in the game.

A three-point play and a 3-pointer from T.J. Hall gave the Bobcats a 34-27 lead with 3:25 left in the first half.

This is the first loss in the last 12 regular-season games against MAC West foes for the Bobcats. Ohio’s five-game road winning streak is also snapped.

As for Western Michigan, it is the second time in the last seven meetings it has beaten the Bobcats. This is the Broncos’ fourth win in their last five games overall as well.

The Broncos will travel to DeKalb, Ill., to take on the Huskies of Northern Illinois on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

This was the first game of a difficult stretch for Ohio. The ‘Cats will return home to take on rival Miami on Saturday at 2 p.m. before it travels to take on Toledo and Buffalo.

“It’s up to the seniors,” Christian said. “It’s the senior leadership time of the season. We’ll see how badly they want it. It doesn’t get any easier for us.”

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