Saturday afternoon's game boiled down to a duel between Courtney Osborn and Jillian Halfhill. Osborn prevailed, and the race for a bye in the upcoming MAC tournament became even more convoluted with just three games to play.
Miami guard Courtney Osborn entered Saturday's tilt with Bowling Green only five points shy of the lofty 2,000 point barrier. She needed less than seven minutes to get those five points and proceeded to use the rest of the game as a personal exhibition of her many talents. By the time she was finished, Miami had earned its first season sweep of Bowling Green in 12 years.
The Falcons had no answers for Osborn, who ended the game with 33 points and seven assists. She shot 12/17 from the floor and was an astounding 7/9 from beyond the three-point arc.
Osborn poured in 22 of those points in the first half as she sank three-pointer after three-pointer. After Bowling Green took a 10-5 lead, Osborn scored eight points and has three assists in a span of 5:08 as Miami went on a 17-1 run to take a 22-11 lead. After the Falcons went on a 9-2 run of their own to pull within 24-20, she sank another three to stop the bleeding. Time and time again as the first half wore down, Osborn responded with points whenever the Falcons dared to get close to a tie.
In the second half, Osborn had a tepid 11 points as the Falcons focused more on stopping her. Unfortunately, that opened the floor for forward Erica Almady, who went 5/5 in the second half and scored 11 points after only scoring two in the first half.
The problem was not that the Falcons played poor basketball. Especially in the first half, Bowling Green played mistake-free (only three turnovers) and moved the ball around well, creating open shots and opportunities in the paint. Miami simply refused to allow the Falcons any opportunity to get back in the game. Over the final 35 minutes of the game, the Redhawks had only one stretch where they went as many as three minutes without scoring.
When Falcon mistakes occurred in the second half, it seemed to be a result of pressing, as the team had to score on virtually every possession. Miami ended the game with a 55.8 shooting percentage; in the second half alone, the Redhawks were 12/21 from the floor.
Jillian Halfhill did her part for the Falcons, as she scored 23 points on 7/14 shooting. Four of those seven baskets were three-pointers. She also led all players with five made free throws on seven attempts and had a team-high seven rebounds. Alexis Rogers and Danielle Havel each contributed nine points for BGSU. Havel also had four rebounds, while Rogers had one before she fouled out.
Along with Osborn and Almady, Miami was led by Kirsten Olowinski. She ended the game with a double-double (12 points and 11 rebounds). Overall, Miami's starters scored 72 of the team's 76 points. Those 76 points were also the most Bowling Green has allowed in any game this season.
This loss is damaging to Bowling Green's hopes for a bye into the third round of the Mid-American Conference tournament. BGSU drops to 8-5 in conference play and is now tied with Miami for the fifth seed. Unfortuately, Miami's season sweep of the Falcons gives them the tiebreaker advantage, which relegates BGSU to the sixth seed.
Further complicating maters is the fact that Akron (9-4) won to pull a game ahead of Miami and Bowling Green for the fourth seed. Ball State also won and is two games ahead of the Falcons and Redhawks. Given the remaining schedules for these four teams, it's very possible that a three-way tie for the 4th-6th seeds or a four-way tie for the 3rd-6th seeds could occur at the end of the season.
At this point, it may serve Bowling Green best if Akron wins out and Ball State loses at Central Michigan and Toledo. If they end up in a tie with the Cardinals for the fourth seed, Bowling Green would win thanks to a head-to-head victory.
Regardless, it's a virtual certainty that BGSU will need to win their remaining three games to have any hope of a tournament bye, and that road begins on Thursday night with a home game against Buffalo.