FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Keith McLeod used a record-setting night at the foul line to score 33 points and lead Bowling Green State University to an 82-78 overtime win over Mississippi early yesterday in the first round of the Top of the World Classic.
McLeod went to the foul line a school-record 27 times and hit 20 free throws. McLeod, a senior guard, led the Mid-American Conference last season with 214 free throw attempts, hitting 174 (.813).
“It was a battle all the way,'' BG coach Dan Dakich said “If this game had been played on the last weekend in March, it would be one of those instant ESPN classics. We were up, then they came back, and both teams just battled every possession.''
The game was tied at 72 at the end of regulation. A free throw and a jumper by McLeod gave the Falcons a 77-73 advantage early in the overtime. McLeod hit a pair of free throws with 1:43 left to put the BG lead at 79-73, and after Ole Miss cut it to 79-76 with 15 seconds to play, McLeod hit three more free throws in the final 12 seconds to seal the win.
“We work extremely hard in the off-season and we work extremely hard in preparation for each game so we can put ourselves in position where we expect to win,'' BG's Brandon Pardon said. “We come with the same focus regardless of where the game is. We treat every game the same.''
Pardon had 19 points for the Falcons, hitting 5-of-9 3-pointers. Len Matela added nine points, while Josh Almanson had eight.
Justin Reed, last year's Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, led Ole Miss with 26.
Bowling Green led 27-21 on a 3-pointer by Cory Ryan with 5:43 left in the first half, but Ole Miss scored the next nine points to take a 30-27 lead with under three minutes left in the half. Ryan's next 3-pointer tied it with 1:20 left before intermission, and Pardon's layup with a minute to play gave BG a 32-30 lead at the break.
A Pardon 3-pointer four minutes into the second half put the Falcons on top 42-34, and when the senior hit another trey at 12:49, the Falcons were up by 11, 51-40.
Ole Miss evened things at 55-55 with 6:25 left in regulation. A driving basket by Pardon with just under four minutes on the clock put Bowling Green in front 67-60, but another surge by the Rebels had Ole Miss tying the score at 70 with little more than a minute to play on a jumper by Reed.
The Rebels took a 72-70 lead with 29 seconds left, but Matela scored with 14 seconds remaining to send the game into OT.
“Basically, we had the lead the whole game, but Mississippi is very good,'' Dakich said. “They've got a bunch of guys back from a team that made the final 16 in the NCAA Tournament. We were in the lead, but they just didn't quit.''
The Falcons meet Washington in a second round game at 4 p.m., Toledo time, today. Washington was an 82-70 winner over host Alaska Fairbanks.
McLeod's 20-of-27 night at the foul line broke the school record for free throw attempts in a game set by Howard Komives (22) against Marshall in 1964. Komives made 21 that game and still holds the mark for free throws made.
McLeod also broke the MAC record of 25 free-throw attempts set by Toledo's John Ayling playing against the Falcons in 1965.
Toledo's Jim Ray (1956 vs. Ohio) and Rick Rightnowar (1992 vs. Kent) hold the MAC record for free throws made in a game at 22.