Western Michigan (18-9) at Eastern Michigan (13-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Convocation Center (8,784) -- Ypsilanti, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: WMU 10-1, EMU 11-4. Away Record: WMU 6-8, EMU 2-11. Neutral Record: WMU 2-0, EMU 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 9-4, EMU 6-7. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 55-43.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos can clinch the Mid-American Conference's West Division crown as they visit the Convocation Center for a matchup with the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The Broncos earned their third win in a row after a two-game slide on Wednesday with a 65-62 win over Toledo in a game that broke a tie atop the divisional standings. WMU has now won 10 of its last 12 games. The victory over the Rockets away from home improved the team to 6-8 in true road tests. Coach Steve Hawkins has seen solid play on both ends of the floor by his Broncos, who are sixth in the conference in scoring (67.0) and fourth in scoring defense (63.0).
Rob Murphy's Eagles are coming off a 53-41 road win at Northern Illinois that clinched the season sweep of the Huskies. The victory rose them to a 13-15 overall record and ended a two-game slide. EMU had been atrocious away from home this season with a 1-11 record in true road tests prior to the trip to DeKalb, but it showed growth by notching its second win in the last three away games. Senior guard Derek Thompson is leading the way offensively, tallying 10.7 points per game on 35.6 percent shooting from the field. Pacing the Eagles in rebounding is junior center Da'Shonte Riley, who is posting 5.9 boards and 2.0 blocks per game.
This will be the second encounter between these West Division rivals of the season. The Broncos were trailing in the second half but managed to go ahead for good on a 3-pointer with 5:37 left to play. WMU shot 46.7 percent from the field and limited EMU to 39.7 percent efficiency, but the Eagles held a 29-26 edge in rebounds and committed one less turnover to attempt 13 more shots and finish with two more makes than the Broncos. WMU used a 16-7 advantage in free-throw line scoring to hang on for the win, which improved it to 55-43 against the Eagles in the rivalry's history.
In the win over Toledo, Darius Paul recorded a double-double with a game-high 28 points and 12 rebounds to propel the team to the decision. David Brown added 15 points off the bench for the Broncos, but he was the only other player on the squad in double figures. Nate Hutcheson made a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to put the Broncos ahead by three points and Toledo was unable to even it up before the final buzzer. WMU showed its strength on the interior as it controlled the boards, 42-31, and points in the paint, 28-16. Shayne Whittington paces the team in both scoring (12.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg), while Hutcheson provides scoring depth (11 ppg).
EMU is leading the MAC in scoring defense with an allowed average of just 59.4 ppg and it showed for the second time this season against NIU as it held the Huskies to just 41 points on 23.8 percent shooting from the field including an ice-cold 5-of-17 clip from beyond the arc. The Eagles managed to connect on 38.3 percent of their own field-goal tries, including 5-of-14 from long distance, while committing five less turnovers to pick up the win.
The Eagles have been awful on the road this season, but they are still hovering just under the .500 mark due to their dominance at the Convocation Center where they downed Purdue during their non-conference slate. However, EMU has not been able to defeat any of the four MAC schools that enter the weekend with a winning league record. WMU is 2-2 against the other three winning MAC schools.
Sports Network PRedicted Outcome: Western Michigan 56, Eastern Michigan 52
03/02 10:45:58 ET