To say that the Bowling Green women's basketball team struggled to make baskets on Sunday afternoon would be putting it mildly. Despite creating opportunity after opportunity for themselves, the Falcons could never develop any real offensive rhythm in what spiraled into a last-second 55-54 defeat at Western Michigan.
It's a loss the Falcons might come to regret when seeding for the Mid-American Conference tournament is finalized; to be certain, it's one they did not need.
Bowling Green jumped out to a 4-0 lead at the 16:27 mark of the first half, but the warning signs were there. BGSU's defense created an astounding seven turnovers in that first 3:33 of the game, and the offense pulled down two offensive rebounds. However, the shooting was cold from the start and only got worse.
Over the 12 minutes that followed, the Falcons were outscored 24-6 and shot an almost-impossible 2-for-25 (4%). For you followers of men's basketball, that's what we call "Northern Illinois (or Kansas) Territory". And it's not like BGSU was just throwing up a bunch of three-point attempts, either; they only had nine of those in the first half. Many shots in this stretch were layups or jumpers from close range.
Watching from home, I was incredulous at how nothing would fall for Bowling Green. Don't get me wrong - WMU played tough interior defense and wasn't giving anything away.-but you can't go on the road and shoot 4-for-30 inside the arc in a half against an inferior team and expect to win.
It's difficult to find any numbers from the first half that were positive. The Falcons converted 11 turnovers into only four points. They converted 12 offensive rebounds into only three second chance points (on 1-of-11 shooting). And despite constant chances, they managed only eight points in the paint. The Broncos shot over 50% for the half, but all of BG's forced turnovers and offensive rebounds meant that WMU attempted only 21 shots in the half.
The poor shooting even extended to the free-throw line, where the Falcons were an uncharacteristic 10-for-17 (58.8%). It was their second-worst day of the season for free throw shooting.
Despite all of this, Bowling Green trailed by only six at the half, 26-20. Falcon shooting improved in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome a spirited Bronco performance. BGSU was able to take slim leads on a few occasions, but Western Michigan shot just well enough to overcome their turnover and rebounding disadvantage.
The Falcons ended the game with 22 offensive rebounds and 20 forced WMU turnovers. Those are numbers that, by themselves, would often indicate a run-away win. But when those opportunities are cashed in for only 23 points, an easy win isn't likely to occur. Bowling Green also doesn't win when it doesn't score much. This was BGSU's third-worst day of the season for shooting (27.1%) and the seventh time they failed to reach 60 points. They are now 1-4 when shooting under 35% in a game and winless (0-7) when scoring less than 60.
Likely the best effort of the day for BGSU came from the bench. Bench scoring accounted for nearly half of BGSU's 54 points (25). That effort was led by Deborah Hoekstra. In the first half, Hoekstra scored a team-best five points in just two minutes, and she ended the game with 11 points (still a team best) in 17 minutes. Jill Stein added eight points and six rebounds, while Bailey Cairnduff sank both of her three-point attempts for six points.
Among the starters, Alexis Rogers had 10 points and eight rebounds, while Chrissy Steffen added another 10 points. The Falcons spread out their scoring; six of seven players that scored had at least six points.
Western Michigan also had six players with at least six points, and that group was led by Marquisha Harris and Miracle Woods. Harris earned a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) while Woods had eight and six.
Due to the loss, the Falcons drop to 15-8 overall and 6-4 in the MAC. They're now in a second-place tie in the Eastern Division with Miami, and they're going to have to get over this loss quickly - after a trip to DeKalb to face Northern Illinois, BGSU has return engagements with Akron (home) and Miami (road). The team may need to win five (or even all six) of their final six games to earn a first-round bye in the MAC tournament.
Western Michigan improves to 8-15 and 4-6 in the MAC. The Broncos are now in an tie for the eighth seed in the MAC with Eastern Michigan.