The Bowling Green Falcons and Ohio Bobcats tangle at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio on Tuesday night, as the two teams conclude their 2016 home-and-home series. They met in Athens six weeks ago, and the picture for both was vastly different at that time.
Ohio dominated much of the first half of that game and led 37-23 with 4:20 left in the half. Unfortunately for OU, that was the high point of the game. BGSU closed to 38-33 at halftime and then exploded for 58 second-half points in a 91-75 victory. For Ohio, the bad part was not just the 68-38 collapse after building that 37-23 lead; it was how they lost.
The Falcons' 58 points after halftime came amid a cascade of Bobcat fouls that ultimately led to a parade of BGSU players at the free throw line. OU was whistled 18 times in the final 20 minutes; it was so bad that Jaaron Simmons fouled out -- after not having any fouls at the half.
Ismail Ali scored all of his 19 points in the second half, with nine coming from the free throw line. Ali, Spencer Parker and Rasheed Worrell combined for 45 of those 58 points.
There were other problems, too. OU was out-rebounded 42-32 and gave up 18 offensive boards. They were also outscored 40-24 inside the paint. Their bench was dominated, too; BGSU reserves doubled Ohio's by a 36-18 count.
After the game, the Falcons followed with a win at Eastern Michigan while Ohio dropped a game at Kent State. BGSU was 3-1 in MAC play and 12-5 overall. Ohio had fallen to 1-3 in the MAC and 10-6 overall.
The rest of the season has been like night and day for both teams. Ohio responded to their adversity by winning eight of their last ten and their last five in a row. Meanwhile, Bowling Green has won just once over the last five weeks (1-9) and has lost seven in a row. The result has been Ohio's ascension to a 9-5 mark in the MAC, which would be good enough for a top-four seed and a bye to the MAC Tournament quarterfinals if the season ended today. On the other hand, BGSU is now 4-10 in the MAC and would be the league's #11 seed at the moment.
The problem for BGSU has been glaring: they simply have not been very good during the final eight minutes recently. They led Ball State 54-50 but were outscored 22-10 over the final eight. They led Buffalo 67-61 but were outscored 27-7. They trailed Akron just 59-57 but were blitzed 24-11 in the final eight minutes. They have also done very poorly at the Stroh, were they are 1-6 in the MAC. That lone win was in the MAC opener against Miami.
The solution to Ohio's problems was a combo platter of Simmons and Antonio Campbell. Campbell is fourth in the MAC with 17.5 points per game and second with 9.9 rebounds per game. He's second in blocks and fourth in field goal percentage. Simmons is second on the Ohio roster behind Campbell in scoring (14.0/game) and leads the MAC with 7.7 assists per game. If he can't find Campbell, he'll dish to Kenny Kaminski and Jordan Dartis, who can be deadly from beyond the arc.
You should expect Ohio to be psyched up for this game, given what happened six weeks ago and also because they have a real shot at the MAC regular season title. As for BGSU, it's hard to know what to really expect. They are still playing hard for first-year head coach Michael Huger, but the energy at the end of games just doesn't seem to be there anymore.
This might be the time for a last stand for the Falcons. Their chances at a home game in the MAC Tournament are probably gone, but they could still improve their seed for a better first-round opponent. Either they finally break their long home losing streak, or Ohio exacts revenge and continues their march towards Cleveland.