With Richaun Holmes gone to the NBA, it was no understatement to say that Zack Denny was the key player for the Bowling Green Falcons in the 2015-16 season. In the season's first 14 games, he has been everything first-year head coach Michael Huger could have hoped for -- and then some.
Denny continued his outstanding production with 20 points and eight rebounds tonight, as BGSU defeated the Miami Redhawks 73-62 in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams. The game was held at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Denny has scored at least 13 points in eight of the Falcons' last 11 games and has at least seven rebounds in nine of those contests. It should not surprise you to discover that BGSU is 9-2 in those 11 games, and their only two losses in that stretch were the only two games in which Denny did not have at least 13 points or eight rebounds.
Arguably Denny's biggest moment in the game came just before the midway point of the second half. Miami had cut BGSU's lead to 42-41. Following a layup by Antwon Lillard, the Redhawks missed a pair of shots. J.D. Tisdale pulled down a rebound and fed Denny. Denny stepped back for a transition three, but he missed. The ball found him again for the offensive rebound, and he popped another three which fell for a 47-41 lead.
That play helped fuel an 11-1 run by the Falcons that essentially put the game away.
The game started rather poorly for both teams. Miami won the opening tip and quickly drove the ball into the lane but Geovonie McKnight missed. The Redhawks subsequently earned five offensive rebounds but went 0-for-6 on the possession. This was a sign of things to come, as Miami pulled down 20 offensive rebounds but scored only 17 second-chance points.
BGSU scored the game's first points on their first possession of the game, thanks to a dunk by Wes Alcegaire. From there, the game bounced back-and-forth over the first 8:30, with three ties and six lead changes. Miami's final lead of the night, 12-10, ended with 12:47 left in the first half on an Alcegaire bucket.
The Falcons led by as many as seven points late in the first half before Miami cut the Falcons' lead to 28-24 at halftime. Of those 24 points by the Redhawks, all but two came inside the paint. Those other two points were at the free throw line, as Miami relied heavily on dribble-drive penetration from their guards.
Early in the second half, Miami stayed step-for-step with BGSU. The Falcons were unable to build on their four-point halftime lead, and the Redhawks managed to even the score on two occasions (28-28 and 30-30). However, that 11-1 run by the Falcons gave them a 53-42 lead with just 7:29 remaining, and Miami did not get within eight points after that.
One big factor that allowed the Falcons to keep their multi-possession lead once they built it was free throw shooting. Bowling Green was shooting just 65.1 percent from the charity stripe prior to this game, but tonight, they made 24 of their 30 free throw attempts. In fact, their final 16 points came at the free throw line; their final field goal was made with 5:25 left on the clock.
BGSU shot 44 percent from the floor (22-for-50), which was just below their season average of 45 percent, while they held Miami to just 34.3 percent (23-for-67). That mark is well below the Redhawks' 41 percent figure before this game and improves the Falcons' field goal defense.
The Falcons were outrebounded 44-36, but they gave up only five assists and had 13 of their own. BGSU had eight blocks and forced 12 turnovers, which they turned into 14 points. Miami managed just six points off of the Falcons' 11 giveaways.
Individually, Bowling Green had several other good nights outside of Denny. Despite no points, Rasheed Worrell knocked down four blocks and had three rebounds. Alcegaire and Spencer Parker contributed nine and eight points, respectively. The Falcons also had a hot night from their bench, which outscored Miami's 33-18. Freshman Demajeo Wiggins scored six points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes. Antwon Lillard earned 16 points and three rebounds, while Ismail Ali added nine points and three assists. Lillard and Wiggins combined for 13 makes from the free throw line, ten of which came in the second half.
Miami had a huge night from their two starting guards, McKnight and Eric Washington. McKnight scored 15 with 11 rebounds, and Washington poured in a game-high 21 points with six rebounds of his own. However, those two needed 33 shots to get those 36 points. Kalif Wright added ten points for the Redhawks.
Bowling Green (10-4, 1-0 MAC) hosts Central Michigan on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET before playing at Ohio and Eastern Michigan next week. Miami (6-8, 0-1 MAC) hosts Toledo at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday before playing back-to-back road games at Kent State and Ball State.