The Bowling Green Falcons vaulted into a first-place tie in the overall standings of the Mid-American Conference after defeating the Central Michigan Chippewas 67-55 on Wednesday night. The game was held at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. The two teams each have a home court victory over the other and now have matching 12-1 records in conference play.
Both match-ups between these two MAC heavyweights have been intense and hard-fought, but tonight's game in particular carried with it a postseason-like atmosphere. Much of that was due to the raucous crowd of 1,854, but the players clearly knew what was at stake.
A win by Central Michigan would have given the Chippewas a two-game lead plus a head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Bowling Green in the chase for the #1 seed in the upcoming MAC tournament. That advantage would have made them virtual locks for the top spot. Instead, Bowling Green moved into a first-place tie with CMU and now has the opportunity to steal that top seed.
How important is the #1 seed? Whomever gets it would avoid a possible semi-final game with Akron, who has now won nine consecutive games.
|(Click link for boxscore)
|Central Michigan Chippewas
|Bowling Green Falcons||29
The first half was close and tense throughout. Both teams made a concerted effort in the early minutes to get the ball inside, and both found success with the strategy. They traded layups for the first four minutes, and BGSU held an 8-7 lead at the first media timeout. Shortly after the timeout, Niki DiGuilio broke the ice from beyond the arc, and her triple gave the Chippewas a 10-8 lead.
That shot seemed to help CMU wake up, and they carried that lead for the next several minutes. A layup by Jas'Mine Bracey gave the Chippewas a 21-17 lead with 7:13 left in the half, but BGSU kept the game at a slow and methodical pace that favored the Falcons. Bowling Green eventually went on a 10-0 run and held CMU without a field goal for nearly four minutes.
The Falcons' lead stood at 27-21, but the Chippewa defense stepped up and allowed only one Falcon basket during the half's final 3:30. This helped CMU cut slightly into BGSU's lead, and they trailed only 29-26 at halftime.
Jessica Green brought Central Michigan to within one point just 33 seconds into the second half, but CMU went cold as they started to press on offense. This hurt their ability to get off successful shots, and during a span of over 12 minutes, they went just 3-of-18 from the field. Bowling Green took advantage by going on a 25-7 run. That gave the Falcons a 19-point lead (54-35).
The game could have played out differently, though. At the midpoint of the second half and with BGSU up 46-34, Alexis Rogers was called for a technical foul. DiGuilio missed a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound, and Rogers pulled down the ball after the errant shot. She was fouled on the rebound by Taylor Johnson, but it appeared that Rogers was guilty of throwing an elbow. This gave CMU two free throws and the ball.
However, Kerby Tamm only split the two free throws, and Crystal Bradford turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. CMU ended up with only one point as a result of the technical. BGSU followed with a pair of 3-pointers to boost their lead.
Many likely would have thought that the game was decided with just seven minutes left and BGSU owning a 19-point lead, but no lead is ever safe with Central Michigan in town. The Chippewas went on one of their patented runs, and the 9-0 outburst cut BGSU's lead to just 10 (54-44) with six minutes left in regulation. There was certainly reason to worry among Facon faithful, especially when CMU began to press, much as they did when they came back for an overtime victory in the January meeting.
Bowling Green was able to hold off the late charge by succeeding at the free throw line. The Falcons sank nine of their 11 attempts during the final six minutes, and as a result, Central Michigan was never able to whittle the BGSU lead to less than 10 points. After a DiGuilio jumper cut the score to 67-55 with 1:14 left, CMU conceded the game by allowing the Falcons to run down the shot clock and did not foul.
The Falcons shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field and were 6-of-19 from behind the arc. They also made 13 of their 17 free throw attempts. The BGSU defense held Central Michigan to a season-low 55 points. That total is eight fewer than their previous season-worst. CMU shot just 31.8 percent and only 29.4 percent (10-of-32) in the second half. They were a season-worst 3-of-21 (14.3%) when shooting 3-pointers.
BGSU won the rebounding battle 44-36 but had a heavy 25-16 edge in the second half. CMU did have a 12-8 edge in offensive rebounds, but they were actually outscored 8-6 in second-chance points. They also forced 17 turnovers and committed only 10. However, they only scored 12 points as a result of those 17 takeaways.
Bowling Green's Jillian Halfhill led all scorers with 18 points, and she pulled down eight rebounds. Jill Stein posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Alexis Rogers almost did the same (10 points, nine rebounds). Erica Donovan added a contribution of nine points and seven rebounds. DiGuilio led CMU with 15 points but was an uncharacteristic 3-of-10 from 3-pointer range. Bradford ended the game with 14 points and 14 more rebounds, and Bracey added 12 points.
As noted above, both teams are now 12-1 in conference play. Bowling Green improves to 22-3 overall and will travel to Buffalo for a weekend game with the Bulls. Central Michigan drosp to 16-9 overall and will play at Northern Illinois this weekend.
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