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2014 Women's National Invitation Tournament: Bowling Green Advances, Two Other MAC Teams Fall

The Cardinals blew a lead on the road while the Chippewas dropped a home game for their third loss in a row. The Falcons found a way to win, though, and will continue to carry the flag for the MAC in the WNIT.

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Three Mid-American Conference teams earned entry into the 2014 Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).  All played on Thursday night, and two of them were at home.  However, only one emerged victorious, and those Bowling Green Falcons will now be the MAC's sole representative in the tournament going forward.  Below are brief recaps for each of the three games.  Click on the links to retrieve box scores for each game.

BOWLING GREEN 72, High Point 62

The Bowling Green Falcons overcame an early 10-point deficit to defeat the High Point Panthers 72-62 in the opening round of the WNIT in Bowling Green, Ohio on Thursday night.  This is the third consecutive year in the tournament for BGSU and the second year in a row that they have advanced past the first round.

Miriam Justinger came off the bench to post the best game of her career for the Falcons.  She scored a career-high 22 points in 33 minutes of action and added three rebounds, four assists and four steals.  BGSU sank just three 3-pointers during the game, and Justinger owned them all.  She was a total of 7-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-8 from the free throw line.

BGSU's starters also had very good nights.  Alexis Rogers made five of her eight shots and all four of her free throws to earn 14 points, most among the Falcon starters.  She pulled down nine rebounds and also contributed three assists and three steals.  Erica Donovan and Jasmine Matthews complemented Rogers' effort with 11 and 10 points respectively.  Jill Stein scored only six points, but she had her customary big night on the boards with 12 rebounds, six of which were on the offensive end.  Stein also posted four rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Bowling Green did not have a particularly hot shooting night, as they ended the game with a field goal percentage of 39.1.  In fact, the Falcons were only 3-of-17 from beyond the arc, and the team was 0-of-10 outside of Justinger.  However, they made their free throws (especially critical ones in the second half), created turnovers, and dominated on the inside.  On the turnover front, BGSU forced 20 miscues by High Point, and those led to 27 points.  On the boards, Bowling Green owned a 44-37 edge, including 18-11 on offense.  They also outscored High Point 42-24 in the paint.

The first half was full of runs from both teams.  High Point began the game by outscoring BGSU 14-4 during the first eight minutes, but the Falcons responded over the following seven minutes with a 19-8 run that gave BGSU its first lead of the game (23-22).  The Panthers roared right back with nine straight points to reclaim an eight point lead (31-23) with 1:29 left in the half.  However, a trey by Justinger sparked a strong finish for the Falcons, who scored 10 points in the final 70 seconds of the period.  Bowling Green carried a 33-32 lead into halftime.

The first 11 minutes of the second half were much more back-and-forth than the first half was, and the two teams exchanged the lead four times and were tied on five occasions.  Bowling Green briefly held a five-point lead just before the midpoint of the period, but otherwise, the margin was just one possession during those early minutes.

With the game tied at 52, Justinger and Matthews led Bowling Green on an 11-1 run that allowed the team to take control of the game.  Matthews posted a pair of layups during the stretch and scored seven points, while Justinger added four.  By the end of the run, BGSU held a 63-53 lead with just five minutes left.  A pair of threes by High Point pulled them to within four with two minutes to go.  However, the Falcons made five more free throws while the Panthers missed their final four shots, and BGSU emerged the winner.

Stacia Robertson led High Point (22-11) with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Bowling Green (28-4) now advances to the second round, where they will face the either Charlotte or St. Bonaventure.  The game between the 49ers and Bonnies is on Friday night, and after that game, the site, date and time of the second round contest will be determined.

IU-PU-Indianapolis 72, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 66

The Central Michigan Chippewas concluded their season with a 72-66 home loss to the IUPUI Jaguars on Thursday night in the opening round of the 2014 WNIT.  The defeat ended an 11-game winning streak at home and extended the program's all-time postseason futility to 0-6.

CMU owned an early lead in the game, and although they gave that up after five minutes, the Chippewas remained basket-for-basket with IUPUI for several more.  With nine minutes left in the first half, they trailed just 16-15.  However, the Jaguars proceeded to go on a 14-0 run in less than three minutes, and Central Michigan could never completely recover from the 30-15 deficit.

The Chippewas were able to get the deficit down to 11 points by halftime, but IUPUI began the second half with a 12-2 run to build a game-best 19-point lead (51-32) with 13:36 left.  CMU finally began to cut into the lead, but the process was very slow.  The Jaguars still led by 10 as the clock ticked under five minutes, and Central Michigan could not get within two possessions until Kerby Tamm's 3-pointer made the score 70-64 with just 36 seconds left.  After that, IUPUI split four free throws, and that was good enough to seal the win.

Central Michigan shot just 32.9 percent from the floor and even worse (27.6%) from beyond the arc.  They sank eight triples, including five from Tamm, but needed 29 attempts to get there.  They out-rebounded IUPUI 49-45 but allowed the Jaguars to shoot 43.8 percent overall and better than 54 percent in the second half.

Tamm finished the game with a team-best 15 points.  Jas'Mine Bracey added 14 points along with 13 rebounds.  Jessica Green scored 13, while Jewel Cotton contributed seven points and 11 rebounds off the bench.  IUPUI's DeAirra Goss led all players with 19 points, and both Nevena Markovic and Akilah Sims earned double-doubles.

CMU ends their season with three consecutive losses and a 20-12 record.  IUPUI is now 23-9 and will play Northwestern in the second round of the WNIT.

NORTHWESTERN 69, Ball State 65

The Ball State Cardinals bowed out of the 2014 Women's National Invitation Tournament with a disappointing 69-65 loss against the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, Ill. during the first round of the 64-team tournament.

During the first half, the Cardinals jumped out to an early 9-5 lead before the Wildcats responded with a 14-0 run that gave them a 19-9 lead.  Ball State helped that run along with seven straight missed shots and four turnovers, and Northwestern held their biggest lead of the game at that point.  Undaunted, the Cardinals responded with a 27-10 burst over a 10-minute span.  Brittany Carter and Shelbie Justice each drained a pair of 3-pointers, and Shelby Merder added another.

The run gave BSU their biggest-lead of the game, seven points, with 2:45 left in the half.  They maintained that lead until NU's Lauren Douglas drilled a triple just before the buzzer to cut Ball State's lead to 38-34 at halftime.

The second half wasn't as back-and-forth, but the score was incredibly close throughout.  Neither team held more than a five-point lead at any point during the game's final 20 minutes.  Northwestern reclaimed the lead on a 3-pointer by Ashley Deary three minutes into the half, and although the score remained close, they controlled action for the remainder of the game.  A three by Carter did give BSU a brief 61-60 lead with 4:30 remaining, but the Wildcats answered with a three from Maggie Lyon and would not give up the lead again.

For Ball State, the loss came down to an inability to make baskets during the second half.  The team pulled down nine offensive rebounds and forced nine turnovers after halftime, and that led to a 35-22 advantage in shots taken.  However, Northwestern led 14-8 in shots made.  Yes -- Ball State took 13 more shots but made six fewer.  While the Wildcats were making 63.6 percent of their shots in the second half (including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc), Ball State shot just 22.9 percent.

Carter led the Cardinals in the losing effort with 17 points.  She made a trio of 3-pointers and added three rebounds, four assists and two steals.  Justice converted four 3-pointers for 12 points, and she secured seven rebounds.  Nathalie Fontaine provided 12 points and nine rebounds, but she made only three of her 17 attempted shots.  Nia Coffey and Lauren Douglas led Northwestern with 17 points apiece.

The Cardinals conclude their season with an 18-17 record.  Northwestern (16-15) advances to the second round of the WNIT and will face IUPUI in that game.