The Bowling Green Falcons won their tenth consecutive Mid-American Conference opener when they defeated the Buffalo Bulls 62-50 on Saturday afternoon at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. BGSU has not lost their first game of any MAC campaign since the 2003-2004 season, when they dropped the opener at home to Ball State.
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The game did not start well for the Falcons. BGSU made just one of its first nine shots while Buffalo made four of their first seven. This allowed the Bulls to race to a 7-0 lead before Bowling Green was able to score. Buffalo then extended the edge to 12-4 at the first media timeout (15:55). Mackenzie Loesing scored eight of the Bulls' first 12 points.
The tone of the game changed immediately after that first media timeout. Out of the timeout, Jillian Halfhill missed a three, but Alexis Rogers pulled down the rebound and dished to Miriam Justinger. Justinger was able to get her long-range shot to go, which cut the lead to 12-7. Shortly after, Halfhill missed another three. On the ensuing Buffalo possession, Kristen Sharkey missed a jumper and Loesing got an offensive rebound. She went up for a layup but missed, and in the scrum for that rebound, Loesing fell and hit her head hard on the court. Justinger got the rebound, and action continued down the court. However, play was stopped a few seconds later after Justinger sank another three.
Loesing was helped off the court at the 14:50 mark, and she would not return to the game.
The Falcons continued their surge and took their first lead of the game two minutes after Loesing left, when Justinger made another three-pointer. The run continued until Alexis Rogers hit a layup with 6:56 left in the half, and that gave BGSU a 27-17 lead. They had outscored Buffalo 23-5 since falling behind 12-4.
To Buffalo's credit, the Bulls essentially played even with the Falcons for the remainder of the game. In fact, BGSU's biggest lead of the afternoon was only 13 points. However, that early run by the Falcons coupled with the injury to Loesing seemed to take all the starch out of Buffalo's sails. They were never able to get closer than five points the rest of the way and, without Loesing, were simply unable to generate enough offense to complete a comeback.
The player of the game was clearly BGSU's Alexis Rogers. Rogers notched a double-double just between her 22 points and 10 offensive rebounds, but she also added seven rebounds on defense. Her numbers were distributed almost evenly between each half, with 12 points and nine rebounds in the first and 10 points and eight rebounds in the second. She had two assists and just one turnover in her 29 minutes, and she made eight of 15 field goal attempts. Rogers was also 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
Miriam Justinger finished the game with 11 points, nine of which keyed the Falcons' early comeback. Jill Stein also made a large contribution, as she poured in nine points, pulled down 13 rebounds, and added five assists, three blocks and a steal. Erica Donovan missed the first half after attending a funeral, but she returned in the second half to play 13 minutes. She scored five points and secured six rebounds to help BGSU maintain its lead.
For Buffalo, guard Margeaux Gupilan helped fill the void left by Loesing and led the Bulls with 15 points. She also added four rebounds, three assists and four steals. Joanna Smith came off the bench to score ten points. However, center Christa Baccas was held scoreless and attempted just two shots. She was also only able to pick up three rebounds. Baccas committed four fouls and was thus able to play only 20 minutes.
Neither team shot particularly well in the physical affair. Bowling Green made just 33.9 percent (21/62) of their field goals, while Buffalo was successful on 32.8 percent (19/58) of theirs. Buffalo was 6-for-17 (.353) from three-point range, but BGSU managed just six makes in 23 attempts (.261). The big difference was at the free throw line, where the Falcons made 14 of 18 attempts (.778). The Bulls sank just half (6/12) at the charity stripe. The game's other big difference was in rebounding, where BGSU held a 51-35 edge. The Falcons were especially tough on the offensive glass, where they gathered 19 of their 51 rebounds.
Bowling Green is now 11-2 (1-0) and will play their next game on Thursday night at Kent State. Buffalo drops to 7-5 (0-1) and is scheduled to play next at Western Michigan on Tuesday night.