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2023 Women’s National Invitational Tournament Fab 4 Game Recap: Columbia Lions 77, Bowling Green Falcons 70

A record-setting run ends in front of the second-largest crowd to ever witness a sporting event at the Stroh Center.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

A near-capacity crowd of 4,155 filed into the Stroh Center to cheer on their hometown Bowling Green Falcons, as they hosted the Columbia Lions of the Ivy League with a bid to the Women’s National Invitational title game on the line.

Unfortunately, there would be no happy ending, as the hosts went cold early and heated up much too late in a tough 77-70 loss on Wednesday evening.

The visiting Lions came out hot to start the proceedings, shooting 72 percent from the field on 11 shots in the first quarter, including 6-of-7 from two-point range. It was a clip which was hard for the Falcons to keep up with, as the Lions pushed out to a quick 11-1 lead less than four minutes into the contest. The Falcons started off slow, responding back with a 7-of-19 effort after trying to set the pace early on with aggressive drives to the basket.

Columbia flew out once again to a large lead, this time by a margin of 23-7 with 4:05 remaining, but the Falcons finally found their shooting stroke at the quarter’s end, cutting the gap down to 23-19 in favor of Columbia at the end of the first ten minutes.

The Lions extended the lead back out to nine on two quick makes from Kaitlyn Davis on a lay-up and Hannah Pratt on a three-pointer early in the second, but the Falcons found a way to reduce it to within four twice on treys from Elissa Brett and Jocelyn Tate midway thorough the period. After another Fleming jumper to pull within four with 3:34 remaining, the Lions went on a 9-2 run before Brett closed the first half with a three-pointer with four seconds left to put the score at 43-36.

The third quarter numbers fleshed out a clear advantage for Columbia despite BGSU outscoring them 16-14 in the period. Columbia was able to push their lead to double-digits several times in the period before a brief Falcon run brought the gap to within five points at 57-52 at the end. The Lions were effective in their shooting, going 6-of-12, but just couldn’t quite get the killshots from three-point range, going 1-of-4. BGSU, meanwhile, once again attacked at a frantic pace, going 6-of-20 from the floor, including a paltry 1-of-10 from three-point range, allowing Columbia to maintain breathing room.

The fourth quarter was tense, as the host Falcons pulled within three on a Sophie Dziekan lay-up to put pressure on the visitors. Kaitlyn Davis responded in kind to push the lead back up to five before Jocelyn Tate split a pair of free throws to bring the score to 59-55 with eight minutes remaining. Davis and Amy Velasco exchanged two-pointers before the media timeout to maintain the gap. Out of the break, Kitty Henderson sent up a three-pointer which gave the Lions the momentum back, as they were never under threat from that point forward.

Kaitlyn Davis was the Columbia dynamo, coming up three assists short of a triple-double while scoring 19 points and securing 15 rebounds, including four from the offensive glass. Abbey Hsu led all scorers with 21 points, finishing with three rebounds, and a steal, assist and a block. Hannah Pratt (12 points) and Kitty Henderson (11 points) were also major contributors, with both players hauling in eight rebounds.

Amy Velasco led the Falcons attack with 19 points, five assists, a rebound and a steal, finishing as one of just two BGSU contributors in double-digit points. Lexi Fleming was the other player, with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals in a sterling all-around effort. Jocelyn Tate was short of a double-double, finishing with eight points and seven rebounds. It was a cold night for the usually sharp Elissa Brett, who scored eight points and four rebounds on 3-of-21 shooting (including 1-of-12 from three-point range.)

It was, overall, a miserable night for the hosts on the floor, converting 34 percent of their 78 total shots, including 5-of-25 from three. They were also uncharacteristically out-rebounded 47-34, with Columbia eclipsing BGSU’s total rebounds with defensive boards alone. Columbia, meanwhile, shot over 53 percent, taking advantage of BGSU’s poor shot selection to pick up easy scores.

Columbia now advances to the Women’s NIT national title game, and will face the winner of Wednesday night’s Kansas/Washington match-up in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Falcons finish a remarkable 31-7 overall (14-4 conference) campaign at home, tying the 2006 BGSU Falcons’ all-time program and MAC record for victories in a season. It’s the deepest the program has ran in a postseason tournament since the 2006 Falcons advanced the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 round. The semifinal run this year was the deepest BGSU had ever advanced in the WNIT.