Two 5th year senior prospects, Shayne Whittington (6-11, 245) of Western Michigan and Rian Pearson (6-4, 195) of Toledo led their teams to victories today in the Mid-American semifinals at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. The top two seeded squads meet Saturday at 6:30 for the MAC championship and automatic NCAA bid.
In the first semi, the top seeded Broncos from Western Michigan defeated the Akron Zips 64-60 in overtime after falling behind by 17 at the half (34-17). The Broncos then slowly and methodically chipped away at the lead and outscored the Zips 35-18 in the 2nd half, and 12-8 in OT.
The versatile post/stretch #4 Whittington was a force the entire game and finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, exceeding his season averages in all three areas and had 12 of his points and all four blocks after halftime in the comeback.
At this point in time, Whittington is far more effective at the college level at the #5 with an arsenal of low post moves, coupled with a nice sense of where he is and a soft touch on the glass. However, his professional ceiling at the stretch #4 is considerably higher than at the #5 and tonight demonstrated glimpses of that potential with sound FT shooting, 4-of-4 tonight (75. percent for the season) and skills and comfort on the perimeter in many WMU sets. Whittington runs the floor very well and is better than average athletically.
In the nightcap, the Toledo Rockets dismantled the vaunted Eastern Michigan zone 59-44 to earn the right to play WMU for the third time, this time for the MAC championship. The teams split the previous two games, each winning on its home court.
The Rockets, who were ahead by four at the half (32-28) held Eastern Michigan to 16 points in the 2nd half with a stifling man-to-man defense. At the offensive end, Toledo was led by slashing guard, Pearson, who has the distinction of playing his whole career for Coach Ted Kowalczyk, who originally recruited Pearson to Green Bay and then left three years ago to take the Toledo job.
Tonight, the left-handed Pearson had 18 points, (15 in the first half), nine rebounds and three assists. While Pearson is most comfortable driving and cutting to the rim in both in the open court and in sets, he did open the scoring tonight with a triple and is shooting 41.4 percent from the arc for the season. A bit undersized for the wing at the highest levels, one shouldn’t bet against a conversion to a lead guard role for the very athletic and crafty Pearson in the future. He handles and passes the ball well-especially in the open court and is an NBA type athlete.
While neither Whittington nor Pearson are certain 2014 NBA draftees, each has his own set of credentials for legitimate chances to develop further with possible position conversions.
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