Western Michigan downs Toledo for MAC men’s title

CLEVELAND (AP) — David Brown pushed his team to the brink of a championship, and as the final seconds
ticked off the clock, Western Michigan’s star senior guard reflected on everything he’d been through.

The ups and downs, good times and bad. The serious knee injury that ended one season and threatened his
And as he stood near half-court, Brown looked at his celebrating teammates and knew it had all been worth
He and the Broncos were champions.
“Finally,” he said. “I’ve been here for five long, frustrating years and it’s finally here and I can’t
believe that with this group of guys we were able to overcome so many negative things.”
Brown scored 32 points, freshman Tucker Haymond added 21 and Western Michigan earned its first trip to
the NCAA tournament in 10 years by beating Toledo 98-77 on Saturday night in the Mid-American Conference
The top-seeded Broncos (23-9) won their first title since 2004, and along with it, the league’s automatic
spot inside the NCAA brackets. Shayne Whittington added 20 points and 13 rebounds for WMU, which had to
overcome an 18-point deficit in the semifinals to sneak past Akron.
The title game was much easier for the Broncos, who pulled away in the second half, outrebounded the
Rockets 46-27 and set the tournament record for points in a final.
Western Michigan had endured several players transferring, and although they weren’t picked to even win
the MAC West, the Broncos were the league’s best team from start to finish.
“We stuck together as a family,” Brown said. “We have a special group of guys in that locker room.”
Julius Brown and Rian Pearson scored 22 apiece to pace Toledo (27-6). The Rockets set a school record for
wins this season, but their hopes of making the NCAA field for the first time since 1980 hinged on them
winning this tourney. That didn’t happen, and Toledo will settle for an NIT berth.
Brown, who made five 3-pointers, nine free throws and delivered a big bucket whenever the Broncos needed
one, was the tournament’s MVP.
The senior guard had plenty of help as Western Michigan shot 68 percent (19 of 28) in the second half and
showcased its offensive firepower, something that any team it faces in the NCAA tournament had best be
prepared to handle.
“That was embarrassing,” Toledo’s Julius Brown said. “We didn’t come out with the intensity we needed.”

With his team comfortably ahead in the final minute, Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins pulled his
starters, who embraced in front of the bench as the Broncos fans danced in the aisles behind them.
The bald-headed Hawkins then put his sport coat back on. His work was done.
Later, he stood with his arms folded on the confetti-strewn floor of Quicken Loans Arena and watched his
players and assistant coaches take turns cutting down the nets. When it was his moment, someone on the
floor yelled, “Yeah, coach Hawk,” and Hawkins slowly climbed the ladder to snip off the final threads.

Ten years between titles was long enough.
“It’s a feeling that’s indescribable right now,” Hawkins said. “To be able go back and do it with this
group of kids. I’m so proud of them. They’re very gritty, tough. We call ourselves the dogs from the
pound because we’re not always the prettiest looking team out there. But we find a way to do it.”
It wasn’t an easy trip to Cleveland from Kalamazoo.
The Broncos had got caught behind a major accident on the Ohio Turnpike in a severe snowstorm, turning
their four-hour bus trip into an 11-hour marathon. But once they got to Quicken Loans Arena, the Broncos
made the most of every second and are now back on top in the MAC after a decade-long drought.
Leading by just two at halftime, Western Michigan pushed its advantage to 14 with less than five minutes
left and then Whittington put a pair of exclamation points on the title with two alley-oop dunks.
“I’ve been watching basketball since I was six years old and now we’re going to the NCAA tournament,”
Whittington said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
Toledo was simply outplayed in every facet.
The Rockets, making their first appearance in the final since 2006, couldn’t cut deep enough into WMU’s
lead. And even when it appeared Toledo was ready to make a run, the Broncos answered back — and usually
Brown was the one doing the damage.
“We had no answer for him on the perimeter,” Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Rian (Pearson) had a great
defensive year, but he had three really bad defensive games against Western Michigan. We didn’t do a
good job on the glass. At halftime they had role players kicking our butts on the glass. They wanted it
TOLEDO (27-6)
Weatherspoon 2-7 0-0 4, Boothe 3-5 0-0 6, Drummond 3-9 2-5 8, Pearson 8-19 5-6 24, Brown 7-18 5-8 22, J.
Williams 3-6 0-0 8, A. Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Lauf 2-5 1-2 5, Beatty 0-0 0-0 0, Garber 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-1
0-0 0. Totals 28-70 13-21 77.
W. MICHIGAN (23-9)
Tava 5-5 3-3 13, Whittington 7-15 6-8 20, Haymond 7-13 3-4 21, Brown 9-16 9-13 32, Richie 2-6 0-0 4,
Washington III 1-1 0-0 2, Hoerdemann 0-0 0-0 0, Klein 0-0 0-0 0, Brennan 0-0 0-0 0, Matasovic 0-1 0-0 0,
Perry 0-0 0-0 0, Avery 2-3 0-0 4, Harris 1-1 0-0 2, McCormick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-61 21-28 98.
Halftime—W. Michigan 42-40. 3-Point Goals—Toledo 8-24 (Brown 3-6, Pearson 3-7, J. Williams 2-4, Smith
0-1, Lauf 0-1, Weatherspoon 0-2, Drummond 0-3), W. Michigan 9-19 (Brown 5-11, Haymond 4-6, Richie 0-2).
Fouled Out—Boothe. Rebounds—Toledo 27 (Drummond 6), W. Michigan 46 (Whittington 13). Assists—Toledo 12
(Brown 5), W. Michigan 15 (Richie 4). Total Fouls—Toledo 18, W. Michigan 20. A—5,278.