Ticket Punched: Seniors Brown and Whittington lead Western Michigan past Toledo and into NCAA tournament

Western Michigan players celebrate after Western Michigan defeated Toledo 98-77 in an NCAA college basketball championship game at the Mid-American Conference tournament on Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Behind the efforts of two standout seniors and a surprising freshman, the Western Michigan Broncos (23-9, 14-4) took down Toledo 98-77 to win the Mid-American Conference tournament championship game and clinch an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

WMU seniors David Brown (32 points) and Shayne Whittington (20 points), both first team All-MAC, combined for 52 points to help the Broncos to win the school’s first MAC title since 2004. True freshman Tucker Haymond, who averaged only 6.5 points per game this season, came through in the clutch with a career-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 4-of-6 from three.

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The 6-foot-11 Whittington, who is considered a fringe NBA prospect, pulled down 13 boards to register his 15th double-double of the season.

This was the third time the Broncos and Rockets squared off this season. The two teams were the top two teams in the conference all season and had split the first two meetings.

Guards Julius Brown (22 points) and Rian Pearson (24 points) did all they could to keep Toledo in the game, but the Rockets’ defense could not contain the hot-shooting Broncos. For the game, WMU shot 55.7 percent (34-of-61) and 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from three.

The Broncos have won 12 of their last 13 games and could be a tough draw in the first round of the tournament.