"As difficult as a year as this has been, this group just keeps coming back and fighting," said WMU head coach Steve Hawkins. "Tonight was the epitome of a battle and they finally got a result."
With the victory, Western Michigan clinched the No. 10 seed in the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament, which begins with first round games on Monday. The Broncos will be at No. 7 seed Northern Illinois, 8 p.m. ET. WMU and NIU split regular season meetings this year, with each team winning on its home floor.
With other Friday results, Central Michigan managed . . .
The Broncos, who had been snake-bit in three previous conference overtime losses found a way to get it done in Mount Pleasant Friday, completing the season-sweep of their rivals.
Western Michigan trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half before cutting the deficit to 12 at halftime, 42-20. The Broncos clawed their way back to tie the game at 53-53 with 7:19 remaining in regulation and pulled ahead with four-straight points by Tucker Haymond.
CMU's Braylon Rayson hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds left to send the game into overtime. WMU's Thomas Wilderhad a chance to win the game at the end of regulation but his attempt in the lane wouldn't go.
The Broncos hit their first four shots in overtime and converted two free throws to build a 76-66 advantage. Rayson hit two three's down the stretch to keep CMU's hopes alive, but the Broncos went 5-for-5 in the final 31 seconds from the free throw line to put the game away.
"On the road, at your rival, and to have to come back from 18 down was really a huge task and we did it. I am really happy for our team," Hawkins said.
Wilder led Western Michigan with 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He scored 10 points in overtime, all from the free throw line.
Haymond recorded his second-straight double-double with 20 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Senior forwardAnthony Avery. Jr. tied a career high with 14 points and had seven rebounds.
Several other players made big plays for Western Michigan.
Freshman Bryce Moore hit a three to extend WMU's lead to seven in the beginning of OT. Freshman Seth Dugan blocked CMU leading scorer Chris Fowler on what would have been a game-tying basket late in regulation.
Senior Taylor Perry put down two free throws to push WMU's lead to 11 with 17 seconds left in overtime.
WMU shot 44.3 percent in the game was 33-for-48 (68.8%) from the free throw line. The Broncos made all four of their field goal attempts in overtime, where they were also 17-for-22 from the line.
Rayson led Central Michigan (17-14, 10-8 MAC) with 26 points. Fowler totaled 23 points and eight rebounds. The Chippewas will be the No. 4 seed in the MAC Tournament.
Western Michigan has now won 11 of the last 13 meetings against Central Michigan, dating back to 2010. In his 13th season, Hawkins' career record is 20-7 against CMU.
"We really needed this road win and hopefully it gives us a little confidence going into Monday for a MAC Tournament game at Northern Illinois," Hawkins said.
The Broncos conclude the regular season with a 13-18 overall, 7-11 MAC record. Wilder finishes the conference season as the MAC's leading scorer from start to finish, averaging 20.4 ppg during league play.
(Courtesy of Kristin Keirns/WMU Athletics)