Bowling Green cruised to a much-needed road victory after a dominant first half effort. The win propels the Falcons to sole possession of the 5th seed in the MAC.
Last weekend against Western Michigan, Bowling Green had one of their worst shooting days of the season. Early in the first half of today's game, it seemed like they couldn't miss anything. The Falcons sank eight of their first 12 shots against Northern Illinois, including their first five (and six of their first seven) three point attempts. The result was a 19-4 blitz that transformed an early 4-3 deficit into a 22-8 lead. BGSU never looked back.
In stark contrast to their loss to the Broncos, the Falcons today looked relaxed and confident. Many of their shots came from wide-open looks, as the team used excellent ball movement to create space and get the shots they wanted. While Bowling Green was not able to drive to the basket as much as they did at WMU, they made their opportunities in the paint count and outscored NIU inside, 20-16.
Northern Illinois played a spirited second half and appeared to play more aggressively than over the first 20 minutes. However, the Huskies never seriously threatened to reclaim the lead. In fact, the Falcons never led by fewer than 11 points after a Jillian Halfhill three-pointer with 14:26 remaining in the first half.
That first half was played nearly flawlessly by BGSU. The team shot 46.7% (14-30) from the floor and 53.3% (8-15) from beyond the arc. They had six assists (including four by Halfhill) and only three turnovers. They also created seven turnovers, which led to eight points. The team also stayed out of foul trouble, as they were called for just two fouls in the entire half.
Chrissy Steffen and Danielle Havel led all scorers with 14 points apiece for Bowling Green. Havel nailed all three of her three-point attempts and was 4-for-5 overall. She added seven rebounds and two assists. Steffen had four treys of her own (on seven chances) and also contributed two rebounds of her own. Halfhill added seven points, five boards and four assists. Overall, the Falcons had 10 different scorers.
NIU was led by Amanda Corral (12 points, 4 rebounds) and Ashley Sneed (8 points, 6 rebounds).
Bowling Green also continues to make the 60-point barrier an important one. The team is now 16-1 when scoring 60 or more points, as opposed to 0-7 when they score fewer than 60. The MAC's second-best scoring defense held an opponent under 50 points for the tenth time this season; they are 9-1 in those games.
The Falcons are now 16-8 overall and 7-4 in MAC play. If the MAC tournament started after today's games, Bowling Green would be the 5th seed and would not get a double-bye -- they would have to play 12th seed Ohio at home in the first round. Toledo (10-1) is the top seed, while Central Michigan (9-2) is 2nd. Akron and Ball State are tied for third at 8-3, one game ahead of BGSU. Miami and Buffalo are tied for 6th at 6-5, one game behind the Falcons.
Joy over today's win must be short-lived. That double-bye is important and positioning for tournament seeds starts in earnest now, as MAC teams now go back to intra-division play. for their final five games. BGSU's next game is Wednesday night at home against Akron. A loss to Akron would give the Zips a season sweep of BGSU and a huge tiebreaker advantage. In that event, the Falcons would effectively be three games behind Akron with just four to play.
It's safe to say that Wednesday is a must-win game for the Falcons, if they want a guaranteed spot in Cleveland.