MEN’S BASKETBALL: Bracket Buster success for Tops

Danny Schoenbaechler

Western’s matchup with Ball State Saturday featured two grizzled veterans slugging it out into the late rounds.

It was only coincidence that it was a part of ESPN’s first annual Bracket Buster Saturday.

Ball State’s Chris Williams had poured in 14 first half points but his team trailed Western 36-35. David Boyden had a mere four points as his team held the slim lead.

After halftime however, Boyden proved why he is the Topper captain. He chipped in seven points as Western exploded out of intermission with a 13-1 run.

Williams swung back repeatedly, making impossible shots look routine. And Boyden took advantage of proper positioning and proved unstoppable inside.

With just over a minute left in the bout, the first competitor fell. Williams had fouled out. The Diddle Arena crowd rose to their feet and applauded the fallen combatant. His 33 points were spectacular, but not enough to upset the Toppers.

Boyden finished with 27 points as his squad beat the Cardinals 84-79.

Boyden’s 23 second half points helped him drop-in his career-high output.

“I just really thought that was a terrific win for us. David responding the way he did after halftime had the most to do with why we won this game,” Western coach Dennis Felton said.

Boyden said that his level of aggression was the key to his success.

“It was easy for me to pick up my aggression,” he said. “But I really had to keep my aggressive level up throughout the second half.”

Felton said that containing Williams was almost impossible.

“The honest truth is I was very, very fearful of Chris Williams. Because he’s the type of player where you can do a flawless job of defending him and he can still hit the shot over you,” Felton said.

Williams has averaged 29 points a game over the past six games, and said that getting an early start has been the key during his hot streak.

“My coaches have been getting on me about my first halves,” he said. “Because I’m too passive at first, and I try and let the game come to me.”

Ball State coach Tim Buckley said that the Topper defense did a good job on Williams.

“I don’t think you can fault the defense, he’s an incredible offensive talent,” Buckley said.

The Toppers won the rebounding battle 41-36, but more impressively, they recovered 20 offensive boards.

“We knew we had to keep them off the offensive boards, but we didn’t do a very good job of that,” Buckley said.

The rebounding advantage was even more impressive due to the absence of senior Nate Williams.

Williams was serving a one-game suspension for breaking an undisclosed team rule.

Western will know focus their attention on conference rival Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have already clinched the Sun Belt’s West division, and a Hilltopper win would give them sole share of the East.

“All we will be thinking about this week is Lafayette,” freshman Jamaal Brown said. “We won’t be looking ahead to the tournament yet.”

After their Thursday night game in Lafayette, Western will come home for Senior Night festivities at Diddle Arena on Saturday.

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]