The Falcons rallied from a 17-point first half deficit but could not finish in a 69-61 loss at Kent State. The loss likely relegates BGSU to a first-round MAC Tournament game next Monday in Bowling Green.
On Tuesday night at the M.A.C. Center, the Bowling Green Falcons sandwiched a courageous comeback between two stretches of basketball that left a lot to be desired as the post-season looms.
With just over two minutes left in the first half, Kent State completed a 15-4 run and took a 35-18 lead. From that point, BGSU outscored the Golden Flashes 40-22 over the next 15 minutes until they finally took a 58-57 lead with just 7:29 to play. It was their only lead of the game.
The Flashes ended the game on a 12-3 run, and the only basket they allowed over the final seven minutes was a dunk by Richaun Holmes with 2:43 left. Overall, before and after Bowling Green's comeback, Kent State outscored the Falcons 47-21.
The stretches dominated by KSU were marked by poor, inefficient offense on the part of Bowling Green. Want proof? Before and after the comeback, BGSU was 9/38 (23.7%) from the floor with 9 turnovers. Of the nine turnovers, eight came in the first 18 minutes of the game. On the other hand, the Falcons shot an amazing 17/23 (73.9%) during their mid-game comeback and committed only five turnovers during that 15 minute span.
The Falcons were never able to get their long-range game going and missed all nine of their attempts beyond the arc, but they were clearly able to make things happen inside. Unfortunately, they were much, much better at creating those opportunities during their comeback than before or after it. Notice a pattern here?
Even with their offensive issues, BGSU was able to score an astounding 50 of their 61 points (82%) in the paint and outscored Kent State 50-20 in that area. In the second half alone, Bowling Green owned a 26-8 edge on the inside. Unfortunately, the Falcons were again unable to overcome their biggest defensive issue over the last two weeks -- allowing stellar three-point shooting.
For the third time in their last four games, Bowling Green allowed at least eight long-range shots. And, for the second time in their last four games, they allowed their opponent to shoot at least 45% from beyond the arc. Every time the Falcons appeared to gather some serious momentum, the Flashes were there with a three to take away some of that steam.
If BGSU expects to advance at all, much less very far, in the MAC Tournament, their perimeter defense needs to be cleaned up.
There were certainly some good take-aways, though. As their offense in the paint indicated, the Falcons were tough inside and played even with Kent State on the boards. They forced their fair share of turnovers, which led to 22 fast-break points. Their conversion rate of turnovers-to-points was better than what KSU managed, as well.
The Falcons also continued to feature a balanced attack that included three scorers in double-digits and three others with at least six points. A'uston Calhoun led BGSU with 13 points and also contributed seven rebounds. Jordon Crawford nearly had a double-double, as he posted 12 points and dished out eight assists. Crawford has had better nights from the floor, though; he hit only five of 17 shots and missed all five of his three-point attempts.
Holmes had another big day from the bench and poured in 11 points to go with six rebounds and three more blocks in just 20 minutes. Craig Sealey and Jehvon Clarke combined for 13 more bench points in 17 minutes on the floor.
Of course, Kent State had a balanced attack of their own. Four of their players scored in double digits and a fifth was just one shy of joining the others. Randal Holt had a game-high 16 points and made three shots from downtown, while Chris Evans made a run at a triple-double. He ended the game with 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Kris Brewer also scored in double figures, as did Darren Goodson off the bench.
The win improves Kent State's record to 18-12 overall and 8-7 in the MAC. They have now wrapped up the 4th seed in the MAC Tournament and will begin play in Cleveland at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14th.
Bowling Green's record drops to 12-18 with the loss, and they are now just 6-9 in MAC play. Currently, the Falcons would be the 8th seed in the MAC Tournament. However, they could improve that seed to 5th with a victory over Buffalo at home in the season finale and some outside help. The fifth seed would give BGSU a first-round bye in the tournament. Without that bye, they will host a first-round game in the Stroh Center on Monday, March 11th.
(BGSU is two games ahead of current 9th seed Central Michigan with just one regular season game left. Thus, they are guaranteed no worse than the 8th seed, which assures them of no worse than a first round home game.)
The Falcons' finale against Buffalo will be on Friday night at 6:00 p.m. in Bowling Green.