Western Michigan (7-3) at Duquesne (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 19, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: A.J. Palumbo Center (4,406) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: NBCSN. Home Record: WMU 2-0, Duquesne 5-1. Away Record: WMU 2-3, Duquesne 1-3. Neutral Record: WMU 2-0, Duquesne 0-1. Conference Record: WMU 0-0, Duquesne 0-0. Series Record: WMU leads, 1-0.
GAMES NOTES: On Wednesday night the Western Michigan Broncos and the Duquesne Dukes will collide at the A.J. Palumbo Center in a non-conference matchup.
This game ends a four-game road trip for the Broncos who managed to take down High Point last time out. Before that victory Western Michigan had suffered back-to-back setbacks to now No. 2 Michigan and Illinois State. That stretch of decisions puts Western Michigan at 7-3 overall this season and 2-3 in games played on the road. The Broncos also have a pair of wins in neutral site games and have now won more games away from University Arena than they did all last year. The Broncos will return home to play Mount St. Mary's on Saturday before playing two more road games.
Duquesne was thoroughly outclassed last time out as it dropped a road test to Robert Morris by a 91-69 score. The loss came on the heels of consecutive wins for the Dukes who are now 6-5 overall this season. The Dukes have gotten all but one of their wins at home. The Dukes won't be able to rely on the home crowd in their next three games with the first against Louisiana on Saturday.
These teams met for the first time last December. In that contest held at University Arena, the host Broncos downed the Dukes 85-71.
In the win over High Point Western Michigan dominated in the first half and then held on down the stretch to gain the victory. The Broncos shot 55.2 percent in the first half and held High Point to 25.0 percent shooting, before getting outscored 48-33 in the second half. The Broncos are a strong rebounding team and exhibited that against High Point by holding a 53-16 edge on the boards. Nate Hutcheson netted 19 points and Darius Paul had his second double-double in three games with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Rebounding has really been the biggest strength for Western Michigan this season. The Broncos are the top team in the Mid-American Conference on the boards as they bring down 38.4 rebounds per game. In terms of offensive production, the Broncos aren't particularly impressive as they score 65.1 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting. Controlling the boards has helped the team tighten up on defense as Western Michigan surrenders just 62.5 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting. The frontcourt trio of Hutcheson, Paul and Shayne Whittington have anchored the Broncos. Hutcheson (13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is the top scorer on the squad despite shooting at just a 36.6 percent clip. Paul (11.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is another double-figure scorer and has done so more efficiently (.443 FG percentage). Whittington (9.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) has been relied on less for scoring but leads the team in rebounding. Brandon Pokley (10.2 ppg) and Austin Richie (6.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) man the backcourt.
The difference in Duquesne's loss to Robert Morris was 3-point shooting. The Dukes were outscored by a massive 39-18 margin from beyond the arc which outweighed the Dukes 48.1 percent shooting overall and 42-27 edge in rebounds. The Colonials also forced 25 turnovers which they converted into 31 points while the Dukes got just 11 points off of 10 takeaways. Derrick Colter scored 16 points and dished out six assists in the losing effort.
The Dukes won't be easily pushed around on the boards by Western Michigan. The Dukes are the 24th best rebounding team in the country (41.2 ppg) and easily the best in the Atlantic 10. It's unfortunate that rebounds don't mean better shooting for Duquesne which is ranked just 13th in field-goal percentage (.420) in the A-10. Despite that the Dukes still score 69.1 points per game which is just short of what the Dukes allow (70.6 ppg). Poor 3-point shooting has also been a detriment for Duquesne which has hoisted up the ninth most attempts from beyond the arc in the country but hits just 30.9 percent. Unlike the Broncos, the focus of the Dukes is in the backcourt with the duo of Colter (11.1 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Sean Johnson (12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg) standing in as the top scoring threats. Forward Andre Marhold (5.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is the top rebounder on a team which relies more on an overall effort on the boards rather than individuals.
The fight inside will be key in this game as both squads rely heavily on controlling the boards. The Dukes may not have the type of big men to deal with Paul and company, but they have size and athleticism throughout the roster and are the superior team on the offensive end. Add in the fact that the Dukes have homecourt advantage and they should be able to earn a victory this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duquesne 70, Western Michigan 64
12/19 10:41:20 ET