Western Michigan (20-9) at Central Michigan (10-19)
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos close out their regular season on Friday evening when they take on the Central Michigan Chippewas in a key Mid- American Conference tilt at McGuirk Arena.
Steve Hawkins' Broncos came from behind to earn a huge 61-56 victory over Northern Illinois on Tuesday to remain tied with Toledo atop the MAC West Division standings with a conference-best 13-4 record. The good news for WMU is that the team holds a tie-breaker over the Rockets due to a better divisional record, putting even more emphasis on this regular-season finale.
Keno Davis' Chippewas haven't had much to get excited about in 2013-14. Central Michigan is nine games under .500 overall and has really struggled in league play with a mere 3-14 record, fifth in the West Division standings, ahead of only Ball State (2-15). The Chippewas enter their last game of the season with a three-game losing streak in tow after Tuesday's 73-69 loss to Toledo.
Western Michigan holds a 92-51 edge in the all-time series with Central Michigan and is looking for the regular-season sweep after posting a hard- fought 75-72 decision at home back on Feb. 1.
Down by five points with just over five minutes to play in the game, Western Michigan delivered from the free-throw line to earn the narrow victory over the Huskies. Shayne Whittington came up huge in the game, going 11-of-12 from the charity stripe and leading all scorers with 21 points. David Brown was instrumental in the win as well, totaling 18 points, thanks to a 9-of-11 showing from the free-throw line. The Broncos held a 26-13 edge in scoring from the free-throw line, making up for a rather bland .390 showing from the floor overall.
The Broncos have been solid at both ends of the floor this season, averaging 71.7 ppg on .458 shooting, while limiting the opposition to just 67.5 ppg on just over 40 percent efficiency (.409). Brown and Whittington have been a potent one-two punch for WMU. Brown, a 6-foot-3 senior tops the MAC in scoring this season at 19.2 ppg. A 6-11 senior, Whittington provides the perfect low post balance, ranking fourth in the conference in scoring (16.1 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.9 rpg). Connar Tava (11.7 ppg) also converts at a high rate, shooting 60 percent from the floor.
Despite a truly poor record both in and out the MAC, Central Michigan does possess some offensive firepower. The Chippewas are averaging 73.2 ppg on the year, but the problem comes at the other end of the floor, as foes are averaging a bit better (73.7 ppg). Scoring depth comes in the form of three double-digit scorers led by Chris Fowler's 17.8 ppg (third in the conference). The straw that stirs the drink in Mount Pleasant, Fowler gets his teammates involved as well, ranking second in the league in assists (5.4 apg). Braylon Rayson and John Simons add to the scoring punch with 10.7 and 10.6 ppg, respectively. Blake Hibbitts (9.2 ppg) is just outside double digits.
Playing from behind in the first half, CMU went on a 13-4 run to open the second stanza to seize control of the game with Toledo, taking a 45-41 lead early. However, a 17-8 run a little while latter by the Rockets put the game out of reach. Fowler once again led the way with 15 points and six assists. Austin Stewart added 14 points, while Rayson and Hibbitts tacked on 13 and 11 points, respectively in the setback.
The Broncos haven't been particularly strong on the road this season (5-7), but with so much on the line, expect Western Michigan to squeak out a win over the Chippewas here.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos close out their regular season on
Friday evening when they take on the Central Michigan Chippewas in a key Mid-
American Conference tilt at McGuirk Arena.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: McGuirk Arena (5,300) -- Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Television: None. Home Record: WMU 13-2, CMU 8-7. Away Record: WMU 5-7, CMU
2-12. Neutral Record: WMU 2-0, CMU 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 13-4, CMU 3-14.
Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 92-51.Game Date and Time
Friday, March 7, 7 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Western Michigan 68, Central Michigan 64