KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Western Michigan Broncos got a much-needed taste of home cooking on Saturday, playing their first of a three-game home stand and defeating the Northern Illinois Huskies 69-65 at University Arena to improve to 15-10 overall and 6-6 in Mid-American Conference play.
David Brown scored a game-high 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, while Tucker Haymond burst out of a mini-slump with 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. AJ Avery provided a major spark off the bench with six points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes of play, granting the Broncos some relief while Connar Tava struggled with foul trouble. Tava still managed to each double figures in the scorebook, recording 11 points and seven rebounds.
Jordan Threloff led the way for NIU with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Anthony Johnson (13) and Aaric Armstead (11) also reached double figures.
WMU out-rebounded Northern Illinois 35-32 and held NIU to a paltry 2-of-14 from beyond three-point range in the game, including an 0-of-6 mark in the second half. The Huskies led by as many as four points in the game and entered halftime with a 41-37 lead, but the Broncos outscored NIU 32-24 in the final 20 minutes to seal the victory.
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Brown cut it to just 47-46 with a pair of free throw makes at the 13:27 mark, and Kellen McCormick put the Broncos ahead 49-47 when he drained a three-pointer from the deep right corner at the 11:03 mark.
McCormick struck again on the next offensive possession, stepping through a screen to bury a trey from the head of the key to make it 52-47. AJ Avery made it 55-50 with a couple of free throw makes, but Jordan Threloff cut it to just a one-possession game with an and-one with just over six minutes to play.
Drake LaMont tipped in an errant shot to push WMU ahead 57-53 with 5:52 to go in regulation, crashing the glass and putting it back to keep it a two-possession ballgame. Brown kept it a three-point game with two free throws at the 3:54 mark, and Avery again made it a two-score game with free throws of his own on the next offensive possession.
A key play came with 1:18 to go when Tava launched a late-shot clock jumper but grabbed his own offensive rebound; the Broncos called timeout with 32 seconds remaining on the shot clock, and Brown scored on a spinning jumper from the baseline on the ensuing offensive possession to make it 65-61 with 52.9 seconds left in regulation.
Haymond drained a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left to make it a four-point game and the Broncos got the stop they needed on the defensive end, pulling in the defensive rebound and sending Haymond back to the free throw line. The sophomore wing made two more foul shots to push his points total for the game to 16, and the Broncos held on for the 69-65 victory.
Neither team was able to gain much separation from the other in the first half, with the Broncos and Huskies keeping things tight through the first 20 minutes of play. WMU opened on a 5-0 run that was capped by an NBA-range three-pointer by Brown from the right wing, but the Huskies cut the lead to just one point at the 15:32 mark on a dunk by Threloff that made it 9-8.
Northern Illinois lead by as many as four points in the half, going ahead 21-17 on a jumper by Anthony Johnson, but Tava countered with a lay-up and Haymond added a perfect trip to the free throw line to make it 23-all with 9:59 remaining.
The Broncos re-took the lead late in the half off of another triple by Brown, this one making it 37-35 with 2:22 to play, but the Huskies scored the final six points of the half and entered the break leading 41-37.
(Courtesy of WMU Athletics)