It was the final home game of the season for the Broncos, who will be on the road for the opening round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament, which begins Monday, March 7 at campus sites.
The contest also marked the final appearance at University Arena for Western Michigan seniors Anthony Avery Jr., Jared Klein and Taylor Perry. All three got the starting nod Tuesday night.
Perry was one of four Broncos to score in double figures, tallying 11 first-half points and 15 points in the game. The 6-5 guard from Rochester, Mich., went 6-for-6 from the free throw line and knocked down a pair of clutch free throws with 20 seconds remaining to extend the Broncos' lead to three. He played a career-high 37 minutes.
“The biggest part of the night . . .
"I thought it was very fitting that Taylor knocked down the two free-throws at the end that were huge for us."
Western Michigan trailed by five at halftime, 33-28, and had to overcome an 11-point deficit established by Toledo (8-9 MAC, 17-13 overall) early in the second half.
After being held to just two points in the first half, WMU sophomore guard Thomas Wilder came up with a number of big plays in the second half. With 5:45 left to go, Wilder converted a layup off a steal to pull WMU in front, 57-56. The Broncos maintained the lead the rest of the way.
Wilder finished with five steals, four coming in the second half, and a team-high 18 points.
Junior forward Tucker Haymond recorded his first career double-double, also pouring in 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Freshman center Seth Dugan chipped in 10 points. Haymond and Wilder each had three assists.
The Broncos shot a lower percentage in the game, connecting on 39.7 percent from the floor, while Toledo hit 46.2 percent. WMU made up the difference at the free-throw line where the team downed 20 of 23 attempts. UT went 11 for 13 from the line.
WMU's defense caused problems for Toledo and was able to lock down during crucial possessions. The Rockets coughed the ball up 23 times, the most for an opponent against the Western Michigan this season. The Broncos meanwhile had just 11 turnovers.
"We did what we had to do and executed the game plan," Hawkins said. "I thought we did a good job on how aggressive we were defensively and we were able to turn our defense into offense.”
Jonathan Williams led Toledo with 21 points, followed by 19 points and nine rebounds from Nathan Boothe. Nate Navigato also had 10 points for the Rockets, who close out their regular season by hosting Toledo Friday night (7 p.m. ET)
Western Michigan takes a 12-18 overall, 6-11 conference record into Friday's regular season finale at Central Michigan. CMU will enter the contest with a 17-13, 10-7 MAC record and will be looking to clinch a West Division title. Tip-off in Mount Pleasant is at 7 p.m.
(Courtesy of WMU Athletics)