Bronco Bench Paces Men's Hoops Win
Courtesy: Matt Vader, media relations staff assistant
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - After trailing for most of the first half, WMU rallied behind big contributions from off the bench for a 64-53 exhibition victory over Spring Arbor in front of 2,228 fans at University Arena. Three newcomers to the WMU program made significant contributions to the victory, led by Juwan Howard, Jr. with 13 points. Fellow freshman Matt Stainbrook chipped with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds off the bench, and senior Alex Wolf paced all Bronco scorers with 14 points. For the game, the Bronco bench outscored its starters 48-16, and held a 48-12 advantage over its Spring Arbor reserve counterparts. Nine Broncos scored in the victory, with ten players earning over ten minutes of playing time. Spring Arbor had the Broncos on their heels for the better part of the first 20 minutes of action, racing out to an 8-0 lead and leading by as much as nine points in the first half.
The Cougars were paced by a great effort from senior Willie Pickvet, who filled the stat sheet with 18 points on 6-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal. Senior DJ Baisden added 16 points and four steals for the Cougars. The Broncos took just their second lead of the game in the second half when a free throw by Shayne Whittington followed Howard's second three of the night to make the score 41-40 with 12:02 to play. The Cougars answered with a pair of free throws by Willie Pickvet to retake the lead, but the Broncos were able to reclaim the lead for good on a Caleb Dean turnaround jumper from the right baseline to make the score 43-42 with 11:25 to play. In his first action with the Broncos, Dean contributed five points and two rebounds. Over the next several minutes, the Broncos were able to pull away with a 12-4 run. Back-to-back left-handed jump-hooks from Stainbrook were followed by back-to-back threes by Wolf to cap off the run and push the lead to 53-46. Wolf was perfect from three-point distance on the night, knocking down all four of his attempts. The Cougars were never able to recover from the run, with the Broncos holding a 23-13 scoring advantage over the final 12:02.
After falling behind 8-0 early, 13 straight points from Wolf, Howard and Stainbrook gave WMU its first lead of the night at 13-12 with 12:34 to play. Spring Arbor was able to answer however with key buckets coming from Pickvet and Matt Van Pelt to push the lead to as much as nine. Spring Arbor shot a crisp 50 percent (11-for-22) for the half, but cooled off in the second half to finish at 34.8 percent (16-for-46) for the game. After struggling with their shooting for most of the first half, the Broncos came alive for a 10-2 run to close the half and cut the deficit to one, 33-32. Two circus shots in traffic by Demetrius Ward highlighted the run and gave WMU a little momentum going into the second half. WMU was able to overcome a cold shooting night, shooting just 36.8% from the field by making 16-25 free throws. Western Michigan will conclude its exhibition season when it takes on Kalamazoo College this Saturday, Nov. 6 at 2:00 p.m. at University Arena. The season will officially tip-off when the Broncos travel to Xavier for a Nov. 12 matchup against the Musketeers.
KALAMAZOO — For the last two years, Western Michigan University’s men’s basketball team knew exactly where to go with the basketball. To David Kool. There was never any question. Tuesday night, the Broncos’ all-time leading scorer was on the bench as a student assistant, no longer an option to shoot the basketball, only for advice. In its first exhibition game of the post-Kool era, WMU looked like a team that hadn’t played much without its former star. “It’s not that we have new players, but in a way we do, because everybody’s in a new role,” Steve Hawkins said after his eighth season as the Broncos head coach began with a difficult 64-53 win over an undersized but inspired Spring Arbor squad. “This is exactly the kind of team you want to play against. They’re very organized, have been practicing for a long time.”
The idea, as Hawkins put it, was to “throw the guys out there and see who plays and who doesn’t.” “We didn’t know who was going to start today,” said guard Alex Wolf, WMU’s lone senior. “We didn’t know who was going to play. We had no idea. It was a clean slate. “We’re trying to put these things together as quick as we can and that’s what you need these two exhibition games to do, is to figure out what different players will play with each other and which ones can’t. And we’re kind of figuring that out.” WMU figured out a few things Tuesday. First, it has a ways to go in the next 10 days before opening the regular season at Xavier on Nov. 12. It also was reassured that its only senior is ready to lead like a senior and that its two true freshmen weren’t bad signings. Wolf led WMU with 14 points, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts, including back-to-back triples late in the second half that pushed the Broncos’ one-point lead to 53-46. Wolf also dished three assists, grabbed four rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over. “He was such a steadying force for us,” Hawkins said of Wolf. “He played like our only senior. That’s what he was. Even in timeouts and at halftime, he’s the guy that was talking like David Kool talked last year. He was a calming force and everybody just sort of listened. Alex is a guy who just sort of makes you feel comfortable when he’s out there.” Freshmen Matt Stainbrook and Juwan Howard didn’t do a bad job of providing a similar vibe, given neither had played a college game before Tuesday.
Howard finished with 13 points, three rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes, hitting three of a team-high 11 shots, including 2 of 5 triples. “I thank my teammates, because they were out there looking for me,” said Howard, a 6-foot-6 wing from Detroit Pershing High School. “They just told me to shoot it. ... From Mikey (Douglas), to Wolf, they were talking me through screens, telling me ‘Switch’ and that really helped me a lot. Because your first game out there, everything’s going so fast.” Stainbrook, WMU’s lefty big man out of suburban Cleveland, all but quashed any chance of a redshirt, with 10 points and nine rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting, including a couple lefty hooks from more than 10 feet out. “I haven’t seen that in a long time,” Wolf said of the hook shots. “That’s impressive. It’s a tough, tough play to stop, so it’s nice he’s wearing the Bronco uniform.” Stainbrook is down about 30 pounds since arriving on campus, playing Tuesday in the high 270s. Conditioning remains his biggest issue. “I was definitely gassed,” said Stainbrook, who played 18 minutes. “That’s something I need to continue to work on. At the end of the game, I need to be ready for a little longer stretch and I need to be in shape.” Hawkins wouldn’t officially say Stainbrook will play this season, but the other three Broncos centers — Muhammed Conteh, Caleb Dean and Shayne Whittington — combined for six points, five rebounds and zero lefty hooks. “We’ll have to evaluate it,” Hawkins said. “I want to take the emotion (out of it). It’s kind of easy to get excited about Juwan and Stainbrook after tonight.”
WMU did ratchet its defense up in the second half, holding Spring Arbor, which led 33-32 at the half, to 21 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. Willie Pickvet paced Spring Arbor, an NAIA school, with 18 points and eight rebounds. Allegan graduate Caleb Beyers also had eight boards. Richland’s Matt Howe finished with seven. “There will be plenty to complain about in tomorrow’s film,” Hawkins said. “But there will be some good things, too.” The most painful moment in the film room will probably come watching the replay of sophomore David Brown clutching his right ankle in agony after tripping on a fast break midway through the first half. Brown, perhaps the heir apparent to Kool, spent the second half near the end of the bench with his lower leg in a protective boot. Hawkins said he was told the initial diagnosis is a sprained ankle and that X-rays are planned for this morning. “We’ll know more then,” Hawkins said.
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