Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
The Falcons used a stingy defense to hold Miami to just 13 second half points on Wednesday night at the Stroh Center. Bowling Green earned a season split with the Redhawks and gains an important victory in their quest for a bye in the MAC Tournament.
With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, a win is a win. Style points are not particularly important. On Wednesday night in Bowling Green, the BGSU Falcons earned a win that could not be described as pretty, but it is a win that may help the team realize its' post-season dream.
Bowling Green trailed at halftime, 31-24, due in large part to Miami runs of 11-2 and 12-2. The first occurred after BGSU took an early 8-4 lead, while the second came immediately after a 6-0 Falcon run that briefly gave them a 16-15 advantage. Momentum appeared to swing Miami's way at halftime when Quinten Rollins ended the half with a last-second jumper that extended MU's advantage to seven.
That momentum must have evaporated during the break, as Miami came out of the locker room ice cold. The Redhawks started the second half 0/9 from the floor and did not sink a field goal until 5:30 had evaporated from the clock. In that same stretch, the Falcons managed to tie the game with a 7-0 charge thanks to a three by Jordon Crawford and two buckets by Cameron Black.
Over the several minutes that followed, the teams traded the lead with neither owning re more than a two point advantage. Miami seemed to heat up again, as they went 5/11 during this stretch. Unfortunately for them, that failed to last. Starting with a miss at the 6:54 mark, the Redhawks sank only one of their final ten shots, and BGSU claimed the lead for good after a Jehvon Clarke layup with 6:31 to play.
Miami turned poor shooting into a veritable art form in the second half. They shot only 25% (6/24) from inside the three-point arc, but that was the good news. Outside that arc, they sank none of their six attempts. And their shooting from the free-throw line? It was just as bad. After Allen Roberts made Miami's first free throw attempt of the half, MU missed on its final seven attempts. Six of those seven tries came in the final six minutes of the contest.
Needless to say, the change was a welcome one from the first half, when Miami shot 50% (12/24) in an extension of how they played in the January meeting of these teams.
For their part, the Falcons were remarkably consistent in this contest. They had identical field goal numbers in both halves, during which they shot 40% (10/25) overall and 33% (2/6) from three-point range. The only difference for BGSU was six made free throws in the second half, as opposed to just two in the first 20 minutes.
(Of course, that wasn't the only quirky thing about this match-up -- neither team went into the bonus, in either half, until there were less than two minutes to play in the game. I don't think I have ever seen that before.)
Other numbers paint a muddled picture about this night.
Bowling Green controlled the boards with a 45-29 edge in rebounds, but second-chance points played a negligible role. BGSU earned only six on 11 offensive rebounds, while Miami converted eight of those into only four points.
The Redhawks, in particular, were heavily reliant on the transition game. Of their 44 points, 18 were a result of turnovers, and they had only four assists all night, including just one in the entire second half. On the other hand, the Falcons featured their half-court offense. They created only seven turnovers all night and earned just five points from them.
Crawford was the star of the night for Bowling Green. He poured in 19 points (7/15 FG) along with three rebounds, two assists and a steal. A'uston Calhoun came close to a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds, but he also had an uncharacteristic five turnovers. Clarke added seven points and two assists, while Cameron Black also played a complimentary role with six points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Roberts led Miami with 16 points and also contributed five rebounds. However, he went only 1/5 from the charity stripe and missed two free throws when he could have cut BGSU's lead to just two points with 1:13 to play. Quinten Rollins came off the bench with eight points but, like Roberts, missed a pair of free throws in the final minutes. Will Felder had seven rebounds to go along with six points.
With three conference games left before the MAC Tournament, the top three and bottom three teams are essentially set. The biggest drama will be over the middle five positions, mainly because the top two of that group (4th and 5th seeds) earn byes in the tournament. The fourth seed would get a double-bye to the third round, while the fifth seed would earn a bye to the second round.
After Wednesday night's win, Bowling Green sits in a four-way tie with Kent State, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan for the fourth seed. As it now stands, KSU is fourth and BGSU is fifth. However, the Falcons still have games remaining with both the Flashes and the Bulls.
If Bowling Green wins both of those games, they would finish no worse than 8-8, while KSU and UB could finish no better than 8-8. However, Kent State still must play Akron, while Buffalo has remaining games with both Akron and Ohio. In this scenario, it would be unlikely that either team would make it to 8-8. Because BGSU beat Eastern Michigan, it wouldn't matter what the Eagles do. So, the Falcons should be the #4 seed if they just win those two.
Will it be easy? Of course not. Very little has come easily for the Falcons in the 2012-2013 season. But, if they can win those games, they will have an important leg up when the time comes to start playing games in Cleveland.