MAC notes: Michael Flowers relishes all his roles for Western Michigan

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Kalamazoo — Western Michigan was in danger of falling to 1-4 in the Mid-American Conference, trailing Kent State (13-5, 3-2 East) by 10 points midway through the second half Saturday afternoon at University Arena.

But, after missing a 3-pointer which would have sent Western to overtime in an 85-82 home loss to Bowling Green Tuesday, Western junior guard Michael Flowers (Southfield A&T) went to work to lead them to a 67-63 win to raise their record to 7-2 at home.

Western Michigan guard Michael Flowers, left, shown here against Michigan last season, is averaging a career-high 18.1 points, shooting 45 percent from 3-point range his last eight games.

Flowers scored 10 of his 18 points during the winning 24-10 run to turn a 53-43 deficit into the 67-63 win, including a pair of 3-pointers, the final one on a rainbow jumper from the right corner with 2:28 left to give Western (9-9, 2-3 West) a 61-60 lead.

“Today was a great win as any other one would be, but today was extra special because we came back, just like we did against Bowling Green, and this time we actually put out the W,” Flowers said. “I like the resiliency of our group. We never quit and stay together at all times and stay confident in each other.”

On his 3-pointer to give Western the 61-60 lead, Flowers said: “Just confidence, belief in my game. I put in a lot of hard work, practice a lot on those type of shots, so every shot I shoot I believe is going in and my teammates kept picking me up the whole game, even when I was missing my shots they told me to keep going. I hit a tough shot, then we played great defense to get the W and I’m excited about that.”

Flowers scored 28, helping Western rally back from a 10-point second-half deficit against Bowling Green, but misfired on a 3-pointer with three seconds left which would have sent the game to overtime. He is averaging a career-high 18.1 points, shooting 45 percent from 3-point range the last eight games to help the Broncos to a 4-4 record during the stretch.

So, what is Flowers’ role now that he is a junior?

“My role, I basically have to do it all, I’m the leader, a scorer and I have to facilitate, you know make sure everybody is in the right spot,” Flowers said. “I’m playing a new role, kind of off the shooting guard this year, played point guard all last year. There’s a lot on my plate, but there’s nothing I can’t handle. I’m trying to bring everybody along as best I can, pick the young dudes up and give them some leadership and something they may have never had before.”

With Flowers now at shooting guard, true freshman B. Artis White — a Mr. Basketball finalist from Canton — has started at the point guard spot, averaging 8.5 points.

“B. Artis can be real good and I just try to stay there for him, give him confidence,” said Flowers of White. “He’s doing something that I didn’t do because coming in I played behind Thomas Wilder, one of the best point guards that ever came through here, so I learned a lot from him on the outside looking in, and he’s actually been able to play and get that head start, that jump start which will be very beneficial down the line.

“I just try to stay in his ear to make sure he’s doing the right things and is on the right track to help us lead the team the way we should.”

Flowers is thrilled to have a healthy 6-foot-8 junior power forward Brandon Johnson back on the court after missing last season because of a knee injury. Johnson, who is averaging 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds, had 12 points and eight rebounds in the win over Kent State.

Flowers was impressed with the play of junior guard Rafael Cruz Jr. who came off the bench to contribute 11 points, five assists and three steals, making a pair of 3-pointers, and getting a steal late to close out the game.

“Cruz came in and did what he does, played good offensively and defensively, got some critical stops at the end and made some tough shots that we needed in this game to pick us up, just a great energy spark off the bench and much needed today to get us that W.”

Western hits the road for games this week at defending MAC champion Buffalo (12-6, 3-2 East) Tuesday and at Northern Illinois (9-9, 2-3 West) Saturday before a rivalry game with Central in Kalamazoo on Feb. 1.

Central misses McKay

Central Michigan coach Keno Davis was hoping to get senior guard Kevin McKay (Warren De La Salle) back from an undisclosed injury on Saturday, but it didn’t happen.

Central (10-8, 3-2) needed him too since it lost to Buffalo, 86-67, in Mount Pleasant, shooting just 34.2 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from 3-point range with Kent State able to concentrate on defending the perimeter without McKay’s solid inside game.

Luckily for Davis, Central is off Tuesday and he could have McKay in the lineup for a West Division showdown with Ball State (11-7, 4-1) Saturday in Mount Pleasant.

Eastern looks for first MAC win

Eastern Michigan (10-8, 0-5) is the only team in the MAC without a conference win, dropping another close game, 60-58, to Ohio on Saturday at the Convocation Center.

Eastern had a 10-point lead (35-25) early in the second half before Ohio went on a 25-8 run to open up a 50-43 cushion. Junior Noah Morgan scored 15 straight to pull Eastern within 60-58, but his 3-pointer missed the mark as time expired.

Morgan, who averages 11.1 points, scored 23 while Ty Groce (Ypsilanti Lincoln) scored 17.

Eastern will play at Bowling Green (13-5, 4-1 East) Tuesday.