Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
The Falcons never trailed as they cruised to a 73-52 victory over the Bobcats on an emotional Senior Day at the Stroh Center. The win bolsters BGSU's hopes for a bye in the upcoming MAC Tournament, but they will need help on Wednesday night to achieve that goal.
You can say this about Bowling Green: they never gave Ohio University any hope in either of the games the schools played against each other in the 2012-2013 season. Out of 80 combined minutes of action, Ohio either led or was tied with BGSU for a grand total of 1:19. None of that time came after the first 50 seconds of either contest.
On Sunday, the Falcons scored the first 12 points and led 19-2 after the first seven minutes. They created wide-open shots with fantastic ball movement and, as a result, started 8/10 from the floor. In that same span, the Bobcats sank only one of their first five shots, missed two free throws, and had five turnovers.
At that point, the game was effectively over.
Four Falcons scored in double figures in a dynamic, multifaceted attack. Chrissy Steffen, in her final regular season home game, was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor (including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc) and led the team with 14 points. She also had six rebounds. Fellow senior Allison Papenfuss had 10 points and seven rebounds in just 19 minutes, while Alexis Rogers posted 13 points and nabbed six rebounds (also in 19 minutes).
Bailey Cairnduff added 10 points, and Jill Stein nearly posted a double-double. She ended the game with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Two other seniors were honored on Sunday. Danielle Havel scored two points and posted two rebounds, while Simone Eli saw her first action of the season. Eli entered the game late in the second half to a loud ovation. She put up five shots before leaving to another loud ovation with 15 seconds left in the game. Although she did not score, Eli had the crowd on the edge of their seats with every shot.
As a team, Bowling Green shot 52.2% (compared to 32.8% for Ohio) and outrebounded the Bobcats 41-29. BGSU also sank 19 free throws (in 27 attempts), including 16 in a foul-marred second half. During the first half, the Falcons dominated from the floor. They made 18 of 26 shots (69.2%) and outscored Ohio 18-4 in the paint. They also had a 12-0 margin on fast-break points.
Unfortunately, I'm now going to say a few things that will probably make you think, "Gee, Matt, why are you nit-picking a 21-point victory?" Generally, that would be a fair response, but in this case, I'm not so sure. With all due respect, Ohio is a very poor basketball team this year, and the final victory margin could have (should have?) been much larger.
After surging to that 17-point lead, the Falcons played the maddeningly inconsistent style of basketball that has been a hallmark of the team for much of this year. It was the style that led BGSU to humiliate teams like Dayton and Central Michigan but also to look lost offensively against teams like Western Michigan.
I bring this up because it's not even just a game-to-game phenomenon; rather, it can be half-to-half or (as it was today) even possession-to-possession. It's a problem that can cost a team games, especially when the calendar reads "March".
After Ohio cut the lead to 19-4 on Sunday, the Falcons coughed up turnovers on four of their next five possessions. Granted, those turnovers didn't lead to much Ohio offense, and BGSU went on a run of 6/7 from the floor immediately after. However, the team had several similar back-and-forth swings as the game wore on, and a better team would exploit it.
Now, you have to give the Bobcats credit -- they generally played hard throughout and ramped up their defensive pressure. But, in my opinion, many of BGSU's turnovers in this game were a result of poor ball-handling, perhaps due to carelessness as focus waned after the early 19-2 run. Overall, the Falcons had 18 turnovers today; in comparison, Ohio had only 12.
Consider this a "forward-thinking" rant. Whether Bowling Green has to win five games or three to earn a MAC Tournament championship, they will need to play their best ball of the season to get it done, and by that, I mean their most consistent ball. Outscoring Ohio only 54-50 over the final 33 minutes on Sunday is not good enough.
The Falcons have one more shot to refine things before the MAC Tournament, as BGSU will travel to Kent State for a Wednesday night tilt. In the previous meeting between the teams, Bowling Green won 69-33. KSU will enter the game with a 1-14 record in the MAC; their lone league victory is against Ohio.
If the Falcons win on Wednesday night, they could be anywhere from the 3rd to the 5th seed in the MAC Tournament. They'll need either Central Michigan (at Eastern Michigan) or Akron (at Buffalo) -- or both -- to lose in order to move up to the 3rd or 4th seed and secure a bye to the 3rd round. If neither CMU nor Akron helps, BGSU will end up as the 5th seed and will host either Kent State or Ohio in six days (Saturday, March 9th) at the Stroh Center.