Bowling Green Game Notes

Western Michigan returns to action after a week of rest when the team hosts Mid-American Conference West Division leading Bowling Green at 7 p.m. on Jan. 22. The game will mark the beginning of a five-game stretch which will see the Broncos play four of the contests at University Arena.

Head coach Robert McCullum and his troops are looking for their first victory over the Falcons since the current coaching staff arrived in 1999-2000.

MAC WEST DIVISION PROVIDING SURPRISES

The MAC West Division has been anything but predictable in the opening weeks of the conference slate.

Bowling Green, who moved to the West Division with the addition of Central Florida in football, was picked fifth in the preseason poll after graduating three senior starters. The Falcons currently lead the division at 5-1, while preseason favorite Ball State is off to a 1-4 start following the loss of player of the year candidate Theron Smith.

The Broncos (2-3), picked second in the voting, are tied for fourth with Toledo. Central Michigan (4-1) owns possession of second and Northern Illinois has posted three MAC road wins to start 4-2.

BRONCO DEFENSE RETURNS TO ITS ROOTS

Following back-to-back league losses to Marshall and Central Michigan, the Broncos were involved in a desperate search for the defensive effort that had previously ranked among the nation's best.

Against the Thundering Herd (66) and Chippewas (80), WMU allowed consecutive season highs for points allowed and dropped from second in NCAA Division I in scoring defense to sixth.

The team's stingy defense made its return last Wednesday and as a result the Broncos posted a pair of blowout league victories. In favorable decisions against Eastern Michigan and Ball State, the Broncos combined to allow and average of 53.0 points per game while enemy shooters connected on just 35.1 percent (34-of-97) of their field goal opportunities. That included a 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) effort from behind the 3-point line.

The Cardinals, who trailed 40-17 at the half, became the sixth team this season Western Michigan has held below 20 points in the first half and the 10th squad the Broncos have not allowed to score more than 55 points in a game.

OPPONENTS STRUGGLE IN SEARCH FOR EARLY FG'S

In the previous 12 games, Western Michigan has allowed just one opponent (Central Michigan) to collect more than 10 first-half field goals. As a result, opposing squads have managed to connect on just 30.7 percent (97-of-316) of their shot opportunities in the opening 20 minutes of play during that run. Each of the teams has attempted at least 18 shots prior to halftime, led by Detroit's 34 scoring chances.

As a result of the team's first half defensive effort, the Broncos have outscored opponents 462-324 this season, which translates into an average halftime lead of nearly 10 points (33.0-23.2).

Western Michigan has trailed just once (CMU) at the half this season.

SLATER HEATING UP IN LEAGUE PLAY

Senior forward Terrance Slater, the team's best defensive player, has picked up his offensive production in recent contests.

He has reached double figures in points in four of the last five outings, including a season-best 14-point night at Ball State. During that run he is shooting 54.3 percent (19-of-35) from the field and 12-of-17 (70.6) from the charity stripe while averaging 10.3 points per game.

For the season, he is shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 59.5 percent from the free throw line while accounting for 5.9 points per game.

COLLUM'S SCORING DOWN, BUT WINNING IS UP

Senior guard Robby Collum struggled in all aspects of the game during the team's two-game MAC skid two weeks ago. While his scoring has dropped in recent contests, Collum played a key role in each of the past two games.

His 7.5 points per game against Eastern Michigan and Ball State is significantly down from his season average of 12.3, but all of his other numbers are dramatically improved.

In 31.0 minutes per night against the Eagles and the Cardinals, Collum dished out a total of 16 assists while turning the ball over on just three occasions. He also collected eight steals and averaged 4.5 rebounds (up from season mark of 2.7 rpg.).

REED IMPROVING WITH EACH PASSING GAME

Sophomore guard Ben Reed, who has started all 14 games this season, is still attempting to recover his MAC Freshman of the Year capabilities of a year ago. Reed saw his season cut short after suffering a knee injury versus Ball State in late February. The explosiveness that made him one of the top rebounding guards in the league is improving by day and his recent performances have illustrated that development.

In the past three games, the Battle Creek, Mich., native has averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from the field as well as from behind the 3-point line (5-of-11). He owns four double-figure point nights on the year and two of those have come in the last three games.

For the season, Reed is averaging 7.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 35.2 percent (32-of-91) from the floor and 34.7 (17-of-49) from long distance.

In 2001-02, he posted season averages of 14.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per outing to finish among the nation's top freshmen in both categories.

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories