The Bowling Green Falcons added to their best start in six seasons on Monday night in Indianapolis, Ind. with a 61-57 comeback victory over the Butler Bulldogs of the Big East Conference. The win is the fourth consecutive for the Falcons against Butler.
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For the first time this season, the Falcons trailed by more than four points in a game, and they responded as well as one could expect.
Butler dominated the early portion of the game. They scored the contest's first six points and, after giving up two BGSU baskets, the Bulldogs ran off another seven points for a 13-4 lead just 5:22 into the game. Haley Howard scored seven of those first 13 points, and Liz Stratman added another four. BGSU's Alexis Rogers tried to stem the tide with a three-pointer, but the Falcons could get no closer than five points as the half progressed.
A Rogers layup cut the score to 21-16 with 7:49 left in the first half, but the Falcons then went cold from the floor. They failed to hit a field goal for the next 6:49. Meanwhile, Butler added six points to their lead for a game-high spread of 11 points (27-16). Jillian Halfhill ended the Falcons' drought with a jumper, and that propelled BGSU to a 6-0 run to close the half. Miriam Justinger's two free throws with 0:03 left in the half made the score 27-22 at the break.
Neither team shot particularly well in the first half, but the Falcons had perhaps their worst shooting half of the entire season to date. They made just seven of 28 shots (25%) and only one of six attempted three-pointers. They were also dominated on the inside. Butler held an 18-8 advantage on points in the paint and outrebounded BGSU 25-14. Of those 25 rebounds, 12 were on offense. The Falcons also had six turnovers to just one assist, leading to eight Butler points.
In the second half, the Falcons continued to misfire from long-range with three misses in the first 70 seconds. However, they turned back to the inside game after that, and it paid off handsomely. Two Rogers free throws cut the lead to fewer than five for the first time since the first five minutes of the game. Less than two minutes later, more Justinger free throws cut the Butler lead to one. BGSU finally took their first lead (32-31) on a Deborah Hoekstra layup with 15:53 remaining in the game.
The lead escalated quickly from there, and Bowling Green owned their biggest lead of the game -- ten points -- with 13:21 left in regulation. In all, the Falcons went on a 27-6 run after falling behind by 11 points. Layups and free throws accounted for 21 of those 27 points.
Butler followed with a 6-0 run of their own to reduce BGSU's lead to four points, but after a Jill Stein layup made the score 45-39, the Falcons kept their lead between five and nine points until the final two minutes of the game.
Two free throws by Stratman and a jumper by Lexus Murry put Butler within one point of the Falcons (57-56) with 52 seconds remaining. Ten seconds later, Daress McClung tied the game with a free throw; however, she missed the second, which would have given Butler the lead.
The Falcons reclaimed the lead on an Erica Donovan layup with 27 seconds left. On the next possession, Butler's Haley Howard missed a layup, but the team gathered the offensive rebound. With just five seconds left in the game, Mandy McDivitt attempted a three-pointer, and it was blocked by Donovan. Justinger got the rebound and was fouled. Her two free throws with one second left sealed the 61-57 win.
Both teams shot better in the second half. Bowling Green sank 13 of 30 shot attempts (43.3%) to finish the game with a .364 shooting percentage. Butler was slightly better a .407. The Falcons made 18 of 22 free throws (81.8%), while Butler converted on just nine of 15.
The Falcons outrebounded Butler 20-12 in the second half and allowed just two offensive rebounds. They held a 20-14 edge in points in the paint, as well as margins of 14-8 in points off turnovers and 13-2 in second-chance points.
Alexis Rogers led all players with 17 points, and she added eight rebounds. Miriam Justinger also scored in double-digits with 13 points. Jill Stein scored four points and contributed a team-high nine rebounds. Butler was led in scoring by Haley Howard, who poured in 13 points. Daress McClung earned a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Bowling Green is now 4-0 and will play three games this weekend in Columbus, Ohio as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge. On Friday, they face Marist. The Falcons then play Old Dominion on Saturday before squaring off against the host Ohio State on Sunday.