BOWLING GREEN - In the span of less than a week, Bowling Green State University will play Division III Wilmington College and Division I defending national champion Michigan State. The Falcons took care of the Quakers 112-75 last night at Anderson Arena to even their record at 4-4.
But with the Spartans and then the Mid-American Conference schedule looming right around the corner, senior Trent Jackson said a 37-point win at home is fine, but it is time to find out what the regular-season defending champions in the MAC can do against the big boys.
“Winning tonight, it feels good,” Jackson said, “but what I'm concerned about right now is I want to go play Michigan State. I want to play against a team that is ranked nationally, and see how we do. I want to shock everybody and come out with a win against Michigan State.”
Jackson, Bowling Green's lone senior, had 20 points and tied a school record with eight steals in the win over Wilmington. Josh Almanson, a freshman from Bowling Green High School, led BG with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Keith McLeod had 22 points, while Kevin Netter added 17 and Brandon Pardon added 12 points and 12 assists.
Before next Wednesday's date at The Palace with the Spartans, the Falcons had hoped to get their house in order after two straight losses on the road, and they did that in pretty short order against Wilmington. Fewer than four minutes into the game BG had already built a 15-point lead on its way to a 20th straight win at home, the fifth-longest streak in the nation.
“I thought our kids had a pretty good focus, had a pretty good direction to come out and play,” Falcon coach Dan Dakich said. “I thought we were good (at the start). I thought we were good no matter who we played against, but then we settled in a bit like we tend to do.”
Wilmington cut the lead to 33-24 with about seven minutes left in the half, but the Falcons used defensive pressure and 60 percent shooting to open it back up to 57-38 by the break.
“You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that in most cases we're probably not going to beat teams like that,” Wilmington coach Scott Stemple said. “But our kids at the D-3 level get excited about coming to play games like this. We didn't want to get rattled, we didn't want to lose our composure, but we just wanted to come in here and compete.”
The Falcons had their lead on the Quakers up to 30 early in the second half, but Wilmington hit four straight 3-pointers to get within 74-56 with 13 minutes left. Bowling Green rolled from that point as a 24-10 run had the Falcons on top 98-66 with six minutes left, and BG's bench continued to build the lead to the end.
“I have a lot of respect for the MAC conference and we like to play Division I teams every year, but it's tough when you're playing against guys who are obviously bigger and quicker, and we just don't have that kind of athleticism,” Wilmington's Stemple said. “Hopefully it will make us a little tougher going into our league play.”
Dakich said that although he saw some encouraging signs that the Falcons are improving, they still have some distance to go as the competition cranks up.
“We just have to get better,” he said. “We just have to get better. That's all I can say. We're just not as good as we should be or can be. We just have to continue to work.''