The Bowling Green Falcons pieced together a much-needed 73-66 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes on Wednesday night. The win moves BGSU into a tie for 9th place in the MAC and within one game of 7th place. The game was held at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The game was very close and rather low-scoring for much of the first half. Richaun Holmes scored the first four points, and with the exception of two brief ties (9-9 and 13-13), the Falcons led throughout the game. Still, a four-point lead would be the biggest the Falcons would enjoy until Damarkeo Lyshe buried a 3-pointer for a 22-15 lead with 6:17 remaining in the first half.
Kent State responded by scoring the next four points, and they were able to keep the Falcons within five points for the remainder of the half. A pair of Kris Brewer free throws got KSU within 29-26 inside the final minute, but after the teams traded turnovers, Lyshe took a pass from Cameron Black and dropped in a layup just four seconds before the buzzer. The Flashes could not get a shot off, and BGSU went to the half with a 31-26 lead.
The Flashes started the second half with a dunk by Mark Henniger and a layup from Kellon Thomas that cut Bowling Green's lead to three. However, Jehvon Clarke sank back-to-back shots, including a 3-pointer, to spark a quick 8-0 run. That gave the Falcons their first double-digit lead of the day (41-30).
Devareaux Manley ended BGSU's run with a trey at the 5:11 mark of the second half, but just over a minute later, Lyshe hit one of his own. With that shot, Bowling Green owned a 46-34 edge. The 12-point lead would prove to be their biggest of the game.
Kent State would not go away, and another Manley 3-pointer sparked an 8-0 run for the Flashes. After Manley's triple, KSU forced three straight turnovers by the Falcons, and the Flashes continued to score with a K.K. Simmons layup followed by an "and-1" Henniger dunk.
The Falcons quickly built their lead back to eight, but Manley continued to be a thorn in BGSU's side. He sank yet another 3-pointer, and Thomas followed with a pair of free throws to get within three. However, Bowling Green turned things right back around with an 11-2 run. Spencer Parker got that started with a pair of layups, and J.D. Tisdale capped it with a breakaway dunk that gave BGSU a 64-52 lead with 2:04 left.
Of course, it seems like the Falcons simply can't escape late-game drama, and this game was no different. Over the next 90 seconds, Kent State made six of seven shots from the field while Bowling Green went 5-of-9 from the free throw line. This allowed the Flashes to cut BGSU's lead from 12 to just three (69-66) after a layup from Derek Jackson with 30 seconds on the clock.
However, Clarke followed that KSU layup by calmly making two free throws to help BGSU regain control. Then, after Jackson missed a 3-pointer, Clark sank two more free throws to put the game away.
Bowling Green's strategy of forcing the ball inside clearly worked. They shot 46.8 percent overall, and that included a 55 percent performance in the second half. Their efforts inside also led to 38 free throw attempts, and the Falcons converted 26 of those (68.4%). The inside game even worked on the boards, as BGSU out-rebounded Kent State 44-31.
The Flashes took 63 shots but made little more than one-third of those (22). They weren't raining down 3-pointers -- in fact, they attempted only 15. They simply could not match BGSU's physical play on the inside. To make matters worse, they could not take advantage of 15 Falcon turnovers, even though KSU gave the ball away just eight times. Despite that edge in takeaways, the Flashes were able to outscore BGSU only 14-13 in points off turnovers.
Clarke had one of his best games of the season. He posted 21 points and was hot from the field (6-of-11) and the free throw line (8-of-9). He added eight rebounds and five assists. Holmes, who was recognized before the game for setting a new school record for blocks in a season, contributed a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He also added four blocks to his new record.
Manley, who crushed Bowling Green with a buzzer-beater earlier in the month, led Kent State with 16 points. Brewer added 14, and Henniger poured in 10. Darren Goodson scored four points and grabbed six rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench, but he was just 1-of-12 from the floor.
Kent State is now 15-13 overall, while BGSU improves to 12-16. Both teams are 6-9 and tied for ninth place in the MAC's composite standings. Even though the teams have now split their season series, Bowling Green owns the tiebreaker over Kent State due to the Falcons' win over first-place Western Michigan. The Falcons and Flashes are one game behind Northern Illinois and Miami, who are tied for seventh place, and are three games ahead of Central Michigan, who sits in 11th place. There are three games remaining in the regular season.
Kent State resumes play on the road against Ohio at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. Bowling Green also plays on Saturday, when they travel for a 7:00 p.m. game against Akron.