The Bowling Green Falcons defeated the Ball State Cardinals 66-64 in another heart-twisting game that came down to the final possession. It was the third straight game decided on the final possession for BGSU, and the Falcons had lost the previous two on last-second shots. Today, in Muncie, Ind., the Cardinals had a chance to make it three in a row, but a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short.
Individuals from both schools reached significant milestones on Saturday afternoon. Bowling Green head coach Louis Orr won his 100th game at the helm of the Falcons, and it was the 200th victory of his career. Ball State's Jesse Berry sank six from behind the arc, and during the first half, he broke the Cardinals' all-time record for career 3-pointers.
The first half was played in three distinct stages but was led by Bowling Green throughout. During the first 3:51 of the game, the Falcons jumped out to an 8-0 lead, as their offense made four of its first seven shots, including two layups from Spencer Parker. The BGSU defense forced Ball State to miss their first six shots and commit three turnovers.
Majok Majok finally got the Cardinals on the board at the 3:51 mark with a layup, and that basket appeared to wake the Ball State offense. Good ball movement created some wide-open 3-pointer attempts, and Berry sank two of the team's three treys in a span of less than 90 seconds. The Cardinals would eventually score 16 points within just 4:20, and a Chris Bond layup pulled them within 19-16. Nearly 12 minutes remained in the first half.
The Falcons responded with a quick 7-0 run that kept Ball State without a point for nearly four minutes. Much like the the first moments of the game, the BGSU defense created seven straight missed shots and three turnovers, and Jehvon Clarke turned one of them errors into a layup. The run gave Bowling Green a 10-point lead, the biggest of the game for either team.
Berry got open again and sank another three to end the Falcons' run with 8:15 left in the half. He would hit two more over the following four minutes, and despite Bowling Green's continued torrid shooting, the Cardinals climbed back to within three (34-31) with 4:14 remaining on the clock.
Both teams went ice-cold for that final 4:14 of the half. They had combined to shoot nearly 50 percent but managed only one field goal between them as they completed the period. Bowling Green suffered in particular; they began the half by making 16 of their first 27 shots but then made only one of their final nine. Despite those issues, they forced four Ball State turnovers and went to the half with a 36-32 lead.
The Cardinals won the rebounding battle 23-19 in the first half, including 9-5 on the offensive end. However, they were outscored 10-7 in second-chance points. They compounded those problems by turning the ball over 10 times and giving up 10 points as a result. Ball State scored no points off three BGSU turnovers. Ball State also shot just 33 percent but kept themselves in the game by making seven 3-pointers. Berry drilled five of those in just seven attempts.
During the opening minutes of the second half, the teams traded blows, as Bowling Green's lead remained between one and two possessions. Spencer Parker's jumper with 12 minutes left in the game gave BGSU a 47-44 lead, and that's how the teams went to the second media timeout of the half.
After the timeout, Kindon Crowder missed a triple, but Majok Majok fought for the offensive rebound. His put-back riled up the Cardinals and the crowd, and Ball State went on an 8-0 run. After Majok's shot, Parker committed a turnover, and that led to another lay-in, this time by Franko House. The score by House gave Ball State a 48-47 lead; it was their first of the game. Two more layups later, the Cardinals led 52-47 and appeared to have control.
Cameron Black finally ended the Falcon troubles with an "and-1" jumper that cut the Ball State lead to 52-50. Bowling Green then had two chances to tie (or take the lead) but failed on both. Berry punished those failures with a 3-pointer to restore BSU's five-point lead (55-50) with 6:27 to play. Despite two straight scores from Richaun Holmes, the Cardinals still led 59-56 after two free throws from House.
Holmes got the equalizer on a rare 3-pointer, and the game went to the final three minutes tied at 59. The Falcons briefly took the lead on a Parker layup that followed Anthony Henderson's steal from Xavier Turner, by sinking a three with just 80 seconds remaining. His bomb gave the Cardinals a 64-61 lead, but they wouldn't score again.
Parker was fouled by Chris Bond after a BGSU timeout, and he converted both free throws. Bond then missed a lay-in on the other side, and Henderson scored on the transition to give Bowling Green a 65-64 edge with just 44 seconds left. After a timeout and a missed shot by House, Majok pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled. He went to the free throw line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, but he missed the front end.
Black got the rebound for Bowling Green and passed to Holmes, who was fouled by Majok. Holmes returned the favor by missing the first of his 1-and-1, but he got back down the floor and blocked Turner's potential game-winner with seven seconds left.
Holmes got the rebound and was fouled by House. This time, he was able to sink the first of the two free throws, and Ball State had four seconds to overcome a 66-64 deficit. Turner shot a 3-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer, but it fell well short of the rim. The Cardinals believed there was some contact on the shot; however, no foul was called, and Bowling Green finally earned a close win, 66-64.
Ball State did a much better job of shooting as a team in the second half but made only a trio of 3-pointers. Berry, who scored 15 in the first half, was held to just five in the second half.
Overall, Bowling Green shot 43.8 percent despite making only two of nine 3-poiinters. Ball State made 10 of 21 shots from behind the arc but shot only 39 percent overall. Both teams were 8-of-13 at the free throw line. Both teams had virtually identical rebounding numbers. BGSU had 39 to BSU's 38, and both teams secured 13 on offense. However, the Falcons had a significant 16-10 edge in takeaways. They outscored the Cardinals by a combined 37-19 in points resulting from offensive rebounds and turnovers.
BGSU's Parker led all scorers with 22 points. Holmes added a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He also had two blocks, which gives him 71 for the season (two shy of his total from last season). Clarke posted 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and Black contributed eight points and 12 rebounds.
Berry finished the game with a team-best 20 points for Ball State. House and Bond each scored 13, while Majok ended up with a game-high 15 rebounds, as well as nine points.
Bowling Green improves to 11-14 overall and 5-7 in MAC competition. Their next game is at home on Thursday night against Toledo. The game will begin at 9:00 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally by ESPNU.
Ball State drops to 4-19 overall and 1-11 against MAC foes. They travel to Central Michigan for a 7:00 p.m. ET start on Wednesday night.
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