Tonight was my first foray into the Stroh Center, and what a time to pick it: Bowling Green's MAC opener against OHIO, the one team this year with a target on their chest given their non-conference run of 12-2. Sweetening the pot was seeing if Torian Oglesby could extend his NCAA Division I record of 26 straight made baskets.
But first, the stadium. I've seen the structure previously when I moseyed on down to a football game last year, but one of the coolest features of the stadium is that glass exterior. You can see it when getting into down via the I-75 South off-ramp. In fact, you can see into it and actually see the vivid colors of the west wall scoreboard FROM THE OFF-RAMP. I was not expecting that.
But inside the building's even more impressive, thanks to the open plan. On the lower level they have a bunch of BGSU memorabilia and Hall of Fame plaques. In their relic cabinet they have my new favorite piece of sports swag: a framed Western Union telegram from the 1940s "cordially inviting" BGSU to the National Invitational Tournament. I hope the NIT still does this today.
And I have to give the OHIO fans credit: they showed up, and that's a 3½-hour drive for them. In fact when the score was 6-0 Bobcats the guys in green were louder than any chant the Falcons fans had been all game. Of course once BG started scoring the decibel level finally went above and beyond what one little section could accomplish.
Oglesby did not start the game but I was insanely curious to see how much further his streak of 26 straight buckets would go. This was not unlike going to a baseball game to see if a hitting streak would be extended. Unfortunately that question was answered very quickly. In Oglesby's first shift on the court he missed a put-back layup that bounced around the rim and off the wrong way, snapping the streak. He finished the day 2-for-3.
Ultimately the game was a back-and-forth slog for the first half, with OHIO entering halftime with a 27-26 lead. Then Bowling Green took off, namely in the form of Jordon Crawford. I could not count the number of breakaway layups he had in a short stretch — at least not without the box score. The 5'6" (if you believe that official height) dude had three two fastbreak layups and a third layup in a 1:04 span, capping a 9-0 run and putting them up by 13 points with 7:50 to go.
But this is OHIO. They're so good at runs people stopped playing Phase 10 with them. Even with a 10-point lead with 4:36 to play, the Bobcats were the aggressors, turning up the full-court pressure, forcing turnovers and mental mistakes, and tying the game with under two minutes to play. At this point I was sure — and so were most of the people in the shiny new building — that the Bobcats had another tough road win in their back pocket. The momentum was all too Athenian. (And the vocal Bobcats section made it known.)
The play that changed the game, I believe, again came at the hands of Oglesby. I paid to see him, and he showed up at the right time. In a halfcourt offense, Crawford suddenly heaved up an alley-oop pass that Oglesby slammed down, also getting a foul call. In poetic fashion, the basket began a new streak of consecutive field goals, which now stands at two.
Oglesby missed the freebie but the tone was set and after some curious shot selection by OHIO, Bowling Green salted away the victory with good rebounding and clutch free throws.
Crawford had a game-high 16 points along with five assists and four rebounds. Scott Thomas, honored before the game for being the first BGSU player with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 150 steals and 100 three-pointers, had 10 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Dee Brown made some key baskets to finish with 13 points and A'uston Calhoun had a very erratic game but still finished with 12 points.
For OHIO, D.J. Cooper led them with 15 points, four rebounds and four steals but ultimately tried to do too much sometimes and his field goal percentage reflected that. Ivo Baltic had the greatest game of all, with the BG frontcourt having trouble defending his drives and finished with 14 points and five assists. Walter Offutt had 11 points, five assists and five steals and the team had a total of 15 steals.
As for the takeaways of the game, it can mean one of two things: (1) OHIO's dominance in the OOC schedule was fool's gold or (2) the top five MAC East teams (sans Miami) are closer than we ever envisioned. The win brings the Falcons to an even 7-7 so nobody can consider them favorites in the East but they are 1-0 in the conference, which is tied for first. It really seems like the latter statement is closer to the truth as these teams are just going to beat each other up for 16 games, with the difference being wins over the MAC West and whoever loses to the Miami the fewest amount of times. Seems like a 12-4 record oughta be enough.