Sunday, March 14, 2004

MAC: Western Michigan wins title, NCAA berth

League MVP Williams also named tournament most valuable player

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - Mike Williams scored 28 points and picked the perfect time to make his first career 3-pointer, leading Western Michigan to its first Mid-American Conference Tournament title with a 77-66 win over Kent State on Saturday.

Williams, the MAC's player of the year, made a back-breaking 3-pointer with 55 seconds left as the top-seeded Broncos (26-4) captured the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Williams, a junior-college transfer who had missed his six previous 3-point tries in two years, was also named the tourney's MVP.

Anthony Kann added 17 points and Ben Reed 16 for Western Michigan, whose first-year coach Steve Hawkins will have them back in the NCAAs for the first time since 1998.

John Edwards had 16 points to lead second-seed Kent State (22-8), which stayed close in the first half thanks to impressive 3-point shooting but couldn't hit a clutch shot down the stretch - and couldn't stop Williams.

Bedford's 3-pointer ended a streak of eight misses behind the arc for Kent State and trimmed Western Michigan's lead to 66-62 with 3:25 to play. But with the 35-second shot clock winding down, Williams drained his 3 from the top of the key.

The Broncos then put it away at the line, and when the final horn sounded, Western Michigan's fans stormed the floor to celebrate a school record for wins in a season as well as a spot in the NCAA field.

Kent State was gunning for its fourth MAC title in six years. But after making eight 3-pointers in the first half, the Golden Flashes went just 2-of-17 on 3s after halftime.

When Edwards picked up his third personal foul with 14:30 left and had to sit, the Broncos immediately took advantage of the big man's absence by reeling off seven straight points.

Williams' steal and dunk put Western Michigan ahead 51-46 with 12:31 left, forcing Kent to call a timeout to get Edwards back in.

But Williams didn't stop there, scoring a scoop in the lane and then dunking off a nice feed from Levi Rost to make it 55-48 with 10:56 remaining.

Kent State's DeAndre Haynes, who averaged 24 points and 14 shots in the first two games of the tourney, didn't attempt his first field goal until the closing seconds of the first half when his driving layup with four seconds left gave the Flashes a 37-36 lead at the break.

KENT ST. (22-8)-Cutley 1-3 0-0 2, Edwin 4-11 0-0 10, Edwards 6-6 4-5 16, Haut 3-12 0-0 9, Haynes 3-9 2-2 8, Jakeway 3-5 0-0 9, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Bedford 4-10 2-4 12. Totals 24-56 8-11 66.

W. MICHIGAN (26-4)-Snider 1-3 1-2 3, Williams 11-24 5-7 28, Kann 4-12 9-12 17, Willis 1-3 0-0 3, Reed 3-9 8-8 16, Berry 1-4 2-2 4, Rost 2-3 0-1 6, Madison 0-2 0-0 0, Bronson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-60 25-32 77.

Halftime-Kent St. 37-36. 3-Point Goals-Kent St. 10-33 (Jakeway 3-5, Haut 3-10, Edwin 2-6, Bedford 2-8, Cutley 0-1, Haynes 0-3), W. Michigan 6-16 (Rost 2-3, Reed 2-4, Williams 1-1, Willis 1-2, Berry 0-1, Snider 0-1, Kann 0-2, Madison 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Kent St. 32 (Edwards 8), W. Michigan 41 (Kann 12). Assists-Kent St. 11 (Haynes 7), W. Michigan 9 (Berry, Snider 2). Total fouls-Kent St. 22, W. Michigan 13. A-10,868.

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