The Bowling Green State University men's basketball team won it's ninth game of the season in its final non-conference game, by beating the Oakland City University Mighty Oaks 87-56 on Saturday afternoon at BGSU's Stroh Center.
There are many who believed that the Bowling Green Falcons would not win nine games all season. Last spring, the team was in disarray following an unexpected coaching change. The school decided to bring home Falcon alum Michael Huger to lead the team in his first career stint as a head coach, but 2014-15 star Richaun Holmes left for the NBA while virtually everyone else but the water boy was rumored to be heading to greener pastures.
Huger was able to hold the team together and won his first game by 18 points over New Orleans. Following back-to-back losses, he led the Falcons to six wins in a row, the team's longest winning streak in six years. BGSU then split a four-game road swing through December.
Today, the Falcons were originally scheduled to play Texas-Rio Grande Valley (formerly Texas-Pan American), but UTRSV bailed on the game and forced BGSU to find a replacement. That substitute was Oakland City, an NCAA Division II independent and member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). OCU entered today's game with an 8-0 record (and 0-2 in "exhibitions" against Division I teams), primarily against university branch extensions, such as Ohio State-Mansfield and Robert Morris-Peoria.
BGSU struggled from the floor early and made just five of their first 16 shots. OCU held an early 4-2 lead and trailed just 11-7 with eight minutes gone from the clock. The Falcons finally went on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 21-9, and the Oaks did not get within eight points for the rest of the game.
The Falcons shot 51.5 percent from the floor and 58 percent after their 5-for-16 start. A huge part of that was their utter dominance inside the paint. BGSU outscored OCU 54-16 on the inside and pulled down 50 rebounds. They had multiple dunks, and Antwon Lillard had two put-backs of missed triples from Zack Denny.
Lillard and Denny were the stars for Bowling Green. Denny posted his fourth double-double of the season by scoring a team-high 15 points and pulling down a game-high ten rebounds. Lillard nearly matched the effort, with 14 points and seven boards.
Overall, the Falcons employed 13 different players in the game, and each of them buried at least one basket. Demajeo Wiggins scored nine, while Rasheed Worrell shot 4-for-6 to get eight points to go with five rebounds. J.D. Tisdale added seven points and a game-high five assists, while Ismail Ali grabbed ten rebounds.
BGSU also avoided costly mistakes with an 18:10 assist-to-turnover ratio and scored 20 points following Oakland City turnovers. Perhaps the only areas of concern from the game were the Falcons' 25 percent performance (6-for-24) from beyond the arc and their mediocre free throw shooting (13-for-23).
Defensively, Bowling Green held the Oaks to just 34.9 percent shooting from the floor and only 31 rebounds. Oakland City also attempted a total of just ten free throws. In fact, they did not have a successful free throw attempt until 5:44 remained in the game.
Huger and his Falcons now move on to MAC play and start with a pair of home games against Miami (Wednesday night) and Central Michigan (Saturday afternoon). With a surprising nine non-conference wins in their pocket, Bowling Green may have the confidence to pull more surprises against their league foes.