The Bowling Green women's basketball team was the standard-bearer of excellence in the MAC under the leadership of Curt Miller, but many wondered if that tradition would continue under head coach Jennifer Roos when Miller left for the greener pastures of Indiana University. Wonder no more.
When the Bowling Green Falcons defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, the Falcons capped off a seven-game stretch that rivals anything that Miller's teams put together in his run at BGSU. The Falcons now have three wins over power conference teams plus a fourth over one of the nation's best mid-majors. They also have three true road victories and a 6-1 overall record despite just one home game.
The 64-52 win over the Buckeyes gives BGSU a 2-0 record against the Big Ten this year and (at the very least) an opportunity to finish play against Big Ten teams with a perfect 3-0 record when they visit Purdue next month.
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For the fourth time in their six victories, the Falcons led virtually wire-to-wire. Ohio State scored the first basket on Sunday with a Darryce Moore layup just 0:51 into the contest. However, Erica Donovan sank a three-pointer just 46 seconds later, and the Falcons would lead for the rest of the game.
The Falcons' ability to get and maintain early leads has been incredible. In their wins over Michigan, Niagara, Old Dominion and Ohio State, BGSU trailed for a -combined- 46 seconds (all against OSU) and were tied for just 3:06 more. Bowling Green held the lead in those games for a combined 156:08 out of a possible 160 minutes. In the second halves of these four games, they held the lead for every single second.
Overall, in their six wins, Bowling Green has held the lead for 200:33 out of a possible 240 minutes -- 83.6 percent of the time -- and trailed for just 29 minutes. In the second half, they've led for 114:54 out of a possible 120 minutes -- 95.75 percent of the time -- and trailed for just 4:51.
Early three-pointers by Alexis Rogers and Jillian Halfhill allowed Bowling Green to build their lead over Ohio State to seven points with 14:43 left in the first half, but that is as large as their lead would get in the first 20 minutes. Despite making just four field goals in the entire half, Ohio State managed to stay in the game by converting at the free throw line. Nine fouls by BGSU players in the first half led to 12 free throw attempts for OSU, and the Buckeyes made all 12 shots.
The Falcons made just nine shots of their own in the first half and attempted only two free throws, but six of their successful field goal attempts were from beyond the three-point arc.
Free throws by Raven Ferguson and Ameryst Alston cut Bowling Green's lead to three with just 3:19 left in the half, but a Deborah Hoekstra three-pointer pushed the lead back to six. Ferguson then hit two more free throws before the two teams went scoreless over the final 2:14 of the half. The Falcons took a 25-21 lead into the locker oom.
Miriam Justinger began the second half with a three for BGSU, which gave the Falcons another seven-point edge. OSU quickly went on a 5-0 run to get within two points, but two minutes later, the BGSU lead was up to nine points thanks to layups by Rogers and Donovan, as well as another Justinger three.
Ohio State would not go away, and Moore and Alston led a 7-0 run that made the score just 37-35 with 14:26 remaining in the second half. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that's as close as they would ever get. Unfazed by the adversity on the road, the Falcons came right back with a run of their own. When Jill Stein connected on a jumper with 11:06 left in the game, Bowling Green soared to their first double-digit lead of the game. Jasmine Matthews capped the 12-0 run with a three-pointer at the 9:38 mark, and that gave BGSU a 14-point lead at 49-35.
The two teams played even for the next few minutes, until Ohio State used more free throws and a three by Cait Craft to get within eight points (55-47) with 2:55 remaining. How did BGSU respond? Justinger sank back-to-back threes, sandwiched around an Ohio State turnover. When Jasmine Matthews sank a jumper with 1:02 left, the Falcons held a 16-point lead (63-47), their biggest of the game.
A last-minute three by Craft for Ohio State meant nothing except for the final margin, and the Falcons closed the game with a 64-52 victory.
Bowling Green shot 53.8 percent in the second half and were 23-for-51 from the floor overall. That included 12 makes in 21 attempts from long range, and the Falcons were 6-for-9 from downtown in the second half alone. BGSU attempted only nine free throws but made six, and they were 5-for-7 in that category during the second half. The Falcon defense held Buckeye shooters to just 12-for-48 from the floor (.250). Ohio State scored nearly half of their points from the free throw line and were 24-for-26 overall.
Despite Ohio State's often-large size advantage, the Falcons held their own on the inside. They outrebounded Ohio State 36-32, including 19-14 in the second half, and outscored the Buckeyes in the paint 14-12.
Individually, Halfhill played 39 minutes and scored 13 points while dishing out six assists and pulling down five rebounds. Justinger lead the Falcons with 14 points. Stein contributed eight points and a game-high ten rebounds, while Rogers added six points and seven rebounds. Hoekstra scored 11 points off the bench.
For Ohio State, Alston led all scorers with 15 points. Ferguson contributed 12 points and six rebounds in a reserve role, while Moore added ten points. Amy Scullion also posted seven points and seven rebounds.
This win is just the second ever over Ohio State in 16 games and their first-ever on the road. Their only other victory over Ohio State occurred on Jan. 18, 1975 -- so long ago that it was just the 14th win in the program's history.
Bowling Green is now 6-1 but has to wait a week until their next game. The Falcons will conclude the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge on Sunday, Dec. 1st at 10:00 a.m. ET in Springfield, Mass. with a game against Monmouth. They will then return home for a contest with Wisconsin-Milwaukee on December 8th.