Broncos 'lucky' to hang on against Idaho State for lone win at World Vision Invitational
LOGAN, Utah ó It wasn't the type of performance that'll get Western Michigan University men's basketball team very far over the next three months. But it was enough not to leave Utah 0-3. The Broncos battled themselves as much as they did an Idaho State team without much firepower, never able to get any significant separation. Eventually the clock ran out and WMU was ahead, 63-60. "We had about 2 minutes to go in the game," Broncos coach Steve Hawkins began, "and we were nursing a little bit of a lead, and I said (to assistant Larry Farmer), 'Weíve got to find a way to win a game, just get out of here.'" "It was one of those games where we looked tired, I thought both teams did." Mikey Douglas' four late free throws helped WMU survive a game it led from 50-48 on, but never by more than five points.
WMU (6-6) finished its trek to Great West at 1-2, losing Tuesday to Troy in overtime and late Wednesday to host Utah State, before Thursday night's win in the Broncos' final game at the World Vision Invitational. On a night when WMU's junior trio of Flenard Whitfield, Demetrius Ward and Douglas combined to make just 5 of 18 field goals and score 18 points together, freshman Matt Stainbrook (15 points, 10 rebounds), Alex Wolf (12 points) and Nate Hutcheson (10 points, five rebounds) saved the Broncos against Idaho State's zone. Whitfield did pull down a career-high 13 rebounds before fouling out for the second straight night. "I donít know what kind of energy we came out with," said Wolf, who's five early points, created on the drive, brought WMU back to within 14-11 after a dreadful start. "It just didnít feel right for some reason. Itís tough, three games in three days." Wolf's buckets were more important considering that even with those points, WMU fell behind 20-11 while missing 15 of its first 19 shots. The Broncos clawed back to trail 29-28 at the break. Hutcheson and fellow small forward Juwan Howard Jr. (eight points, six rebounds) attacked Idaho State's zone throughout, creating and scoring near the hoop when nothing from outside was falling. "Everybody wants to shoot the ball against the zone, it's just a natural instinct," Hutcheson said. "But we all know you have to drive, youíve got to take it inside."
Said Howard: "We didnít shoot well but we also didnít rebound well today. We had 18 turnovers and allowed 18 offensive rebounds and thatís giving a team 36 extra possessions, and thatís something we shouldnít be giving them. We got lucky, winning by three and giving up 36 extra possessions in the game." WMU made 36 percent of its shots, though Idaho State (4-8) hit just 33 percent. In an effort to counter the tired legs, Hawkins played 10 players, including extended minutes for Wolf (25 minutes) and Brandon Pokley (10). "We had to use some fresh legs tonight," said Hawkins, who chose not to play sophomore shooting guard David Brown at all, even though Brown played only 10 minutes the night before. Lithuanian big man Deividas Busma led the Bengals with 16 points and 13 rebounds, proving too quick for Stainbrook. The Broncos kept Idaho State guard Broderick Gilchrest in check. Gilchrest nearly hit his 16-point average with 13 points, but shot 4-for-14 from the floor. The Broncos don't play again until Eastern Illinois visits University Arena at 2 p.m. on New Year's Eve. The players are off from practice until Dec. 28. "Itís a sour taste still," Wolf said. "We thought we could have won that first game against Troy. Thatís a tough game to lose in overtime. "But definitely three losses would have been a lot, lot more sour taste opening presents on Christmas."
HALFTIME ANALYSIS: Idaho State 29, Western Michigan 28
LOGAN, Utah ó There's good news and bad news for the Broncos. The good news: They've played maybe their worst half of season ó at least from a shooting standpoint (and probably overall) ó and they're only down one. The bad news: WMU has played maybe its worst half of the season and trails a team at the half that would finish in the bottom half of the MAC. The Broncos are 9-for-27 shooting and have actually heated up after a 4-for-19 start. They've also been out-rebounded, 24-20. Alex Wolf has been WMU's best player to this point, with five points and an assist not really telling of his impact in 11 minutes. Idaho State's Lithuanian big man Deividas Busma has six points and eight rebounds. He's a really effective garbage player inside.
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