The Bowling Green Falcons held the Akron Zips to 18 points under their season average and took firm control of the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division with an 81-65 victory on Sunday afternoon at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The Falcons accomplished this feat by limiting the damage done by Akron's powerful duo of Rachel Tecca and Hanna Luburgh. The pair came into Sunday's contest as the MAC's top two scorers, and they averaged a combined 48 points per game. Against Bowling Green, Tecca and Luburgh was held to just 36 points. Both shot 50%, which is consistent with their season averages, but the Falcons limited their activity. In particular, they were able to control Luburgh's long shot. Luburgh is Akron's leading three-point shooter, with 31 makes in 91 attempts. BGSU's defense limited her to no makes and only two attempts.
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Early in the contest, the pace was brisk and pointed towards Akron's favor. However, the scoring was limited because of early turnover difficulties. In the first 6:10 of the game, there were nine combined turnovers, eight of which were committed by the Zips. That hurt, because the Zips actually started the game with a hot shooting hand. In that same 6:10 time frame, Akron made four out of seven field goals.
Bowling Green started the game with a Jill Stein three, but Akron took two early leads, first at 4-3 and then again at 6-5. Unfortunately for the Zips, their turnover problem allowed Bowling Green to take control of the game. Jillian Halfhill sank a three with 15:51 left in the first half to give BGSU an 8-6 lead, and they would not give up the advantage. Including Halfhill's three, the Falcons went on a 15-4 run over a span of 3:40 to take a 20-10 lead. Akron scored five of the next seven points to cut the deficit to seven, but BGSU took the lead back to 12 with a short 5-0 run.
At this point, the Falcons got into some foul trouble. Stein went out with her third foul with 6:20 left, then BGSU saw Alexis Rogers and Erica Donovan leave with their second fouls less than a minute later. Akron used the opportunity to climb back within five points at 34-29 with 2:22 left in the half. However, the Falcons ended the first 20 minutes with five straight points as Jasmine Matthews sank two free throws before Halfhill made another three with 22 seconds left. Bowling Green took a 39-29 lead into the locker room.
Scoring picked up even more in the second half, but despite Akron's persistence, Bowling Green continued to make shots when they needed them most. Halfhill began the final 20 minutes with another three, and that pushed BGSU to score seven of the first nine points and claim a 46-31 lead. Akron took a timeout, and Rachel Tecca scored on a layup on the next possession. After that, Stein left with her fourth foul, and Rogers had to sit with her third. The Zips then scored five more points, and the lead was down to eight (46-38).
Hanna Luburgh's layup with 13:28 left made the score 48-40, and it seemed as if Akron was back in the game. The momentum evaporated when Carly Young missed back-to-back three point attempts. Soon after, Erica Donovan sank a three-pointer, and Akron would not get that close again. The Falcons continued to build their lead from that point, and it eventually reached 18 when Halfhill sank two free throws for a 73-55 lead with 4:05 remaining.
The final minutes played out with the Zips' deficit swinging between 14 and 18 points, until the horn sounded with Bowling Green ahead 81-65.
Bowling Green shot just 40.7 percent for the game, but their three-point and free throw shooting were lights out. BGSU made 10 of 18 shots from long range (55.6%) and 23 of 27 free throws (85.2%). This was particularly important in the second half. Despite shooting only 9-for-26 (34.6%) in that frame, they scored 42 points. Why? They made four three-pointers and 20 (of 22) free throws. On the other side, Akron was nearly identical (40.6%) from the floor, but they were much worse in the other two categories. The Zips made just 3 of their 14 three-point attempts (and none of six in the second half) and sank just 10 free throws during the entire game.
Bowling Green won the rebounding and turnover battles, but only by small margins. The Falcons had 40 rebounds to Akron's 38 and forced 14 turnovers to Akron's 12. The difference? BGSU outscored Akron 17-6 in points off those turnovers.
Five players scored in double figures for Bowling Green. Halfhill, who was 4-for-6 from long range, was the leading scorer with 18 points. She also had four assists. Erica Donovan posted a double-double with 12 points and ten assists, and Alexis Rogers scored 14 and pulled down eight rebounds before fouling out late. The Zips were led in points (22) and rebounds (9) by Tecca. Luburgh added 14 points and five rebounds. Kacie Cassell also scored 11. However, Carly Young, who averaged nearly 10 points per game before Sunday, scored only three and was 1-for-7 from the floor.
Bowling Green improves to 13-2 overall and 3-0 in the MAC. The Falcons are one of only two undefeated teams remaining in the league, and they are one of two teams in the Eastern Division with winning conference records (Ohio, 2-1). BGSU returns to action on Wednesday night with a road game at Ball State, then play a titanic game at Central Michigan next Saturday afternoon. CMU is the only other 3-0 team in the MAC.
Akron drops to 7-7 overall and 1-2 in the MAC. The Zips have an opportunity to recover with their games this week. First, on Wednesday, they play at Miami. Akron then plays at home against Kent State on Saturday. Both Miami and Kent State are currently 0-3 in league play.