Coming out of the halftime break at the Stroh Center, no one could be blamed if they thought that Bowling Green’s magical postseason run in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament was coming to a close.
The hosting Falcons trailed 31-28 after two periods of play, and the specter of a high-major team in the visiting Florida Gators getting out to a lead was a threat if they could maintain their three-point lead.
That’s when BGSU guard Amy Velasco stepped up.
The sophomore guard would go on a nine-point run on her own to start the third quarter, giving BGSU a six-point lead. The Gators managed to stop the run and pull within four on free throws, but Velasco wasn’t done just yet. She hit a three-pointer from the corner in reply, then tacked on another lay-up to push the lead right back out to nine points. Fellow Falcon Jocelyn Tate would add a lay-up of her own to give the hosts a 50-42 lead at the end of three quarters.
The third period was ultimately the difference in this Great 8 quarterfinal contest, as Florida could not stop the Falcons from scoring in bunches in the final frame. Eliza Brett would score four-straight points, while Lexi Fleming and Sophie Dziekian contributed two-pointers of their own to squash any hopes of a Gators comeback with a 8-0 run to push the lead from 52-45 to 60-45 midway through the quarter, ultimately aiding in the BGSU victory.
Velasco was the heroine of the hour for BGSU, scoring 14 of her 18 points during that fateful third-quarter run, dishing out five assists. Elissa Brett (16 points, 9 rebounds, two assists) and Allison Day (12 points, six rebounds, two assists) were also double-digit scorers for the Falcons on the day. Jocelyn Tate once again proved to be a dynamo, with six points and 12 rebounds, including six on offense, with four assists. Lexi Fleming finished the contest with seven points and rebounds apiece, while also leading both teams in steals (5.)
For the Florida Gators, Leilani Correa was the only UF player to sniff double-digit points, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-15 from the field, with five rebounds, two steals and an assist. Kirsten Deans and Jordyn Merritt both finished the night with nine points to finish second-best in points for the Gators, with Deans picking up seven assists and Merritt picking up five blocks. Both marks were game-highs.
The Falcons won this game on the glass and with fundamentals; BGSU out-rebounded Florida 47-35, with 17 of their 47 boards coming on offense, and won the turnover battle as well, forcing 22 compared to 16 giveaways. BG also sunk in over 80 percent of their free throws as well, compared to Florida’s 63 percent, with both teams trying 11 shots from the charity stripe.
The Falcons now look forward to hosting the Columbia Lions of the Ivy League in Fab 4 play on Wednesday evening at the Stroh Center, with tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m. Eastern time. A win that night would guarantee a title matchup with either Kansas or Washington.