PITTSBURGH - Thirty-six hundred people disappeared for a few seconds here last night as Bowling Green's Keith McLeod went to the foul line with the Falcons' game against Duquesne hanging in the balance.
McLeod hit both shots, and his team was a 64-62 winner.
“Late in the game when I get to the free-throw line, it's just me; nobody's in the gym,” McLeod said. “The crowd goes crazy and everything, but I'm by myself and I don't hear anything - it's quiet. I shoot them just like it is practice.”
McLeod, who nailed a baseline jumper with just under two minutes left to give Bowling Green a 62-56 lead, missed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds to play, but then tied up Duquesne's Aaron Lovelace with just under three seconds on the clock, and the Falcons got the ball on the possession arrow. Duquesne fouled McLeod on the inbounds, sending him to the line with 2.8 seconds left.
“Ever since the first game he played for us, we've been putting him on the line like that,” Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich said. “He's made so many shots, so often. We're going to ride him until it's over.”
McLeod helped the Falcons (6-1) come out strong to start the second half after they had trailed 32-30 at the break. His three free throws with 8:49 left in the game put Bowling Green on top 51-46.
When Len Matela followed a McLeod jumper in the lane with a free throw with about six minutes remaining, the Falcons led 58-48.
McLeod, who scored 28 points, said Bowling Green turned things around by stealing the momentum on the defensive end. The Falcons pushed Duquesne (2-3) deep into the shot clock on numerous second-half possessions.
“That's a really big boost when we play hard defense for 35 seconds,” McLeod said. “Then we come down and run good on offense, and making them work that hard on offense wears them down.”
Bowling Green went from one point down to a 60-49 lead with just over five minutes to play by limiting Duquesne to three free throws during a 15-3 run.
“Our defense carried us, no question,” Dakich said.
“Our defense carried the entire deal in the second half. We weren't going to win the game if we had to rely on our offense, because our offense isn't very good right now.”
Duquesne charged back in the closing minutes and held Bowling Green to just McLeod's baseline jump shot over a five-minute stretch that ended when McLeod hit the two free throws to give BG a four-point lead with two seconds left and put the game away.
“I thought McLeod's basket off the baseline was the nail in the coffin,” Duquesne coach Danny Nee said.
“Obviously, he was the difference, but Bowling Green is a quality basketball team - that's a senior team that knows how to win. They have a program that is what we're trying to get to.”
Duquesne had led by as many as six points early in the second half before Bowling Green's defensive surge.
“We thought we had them,” Duquesne senior Lovelace said.
Bowling Green held Duquesne to 38 percent shooting in the first half, but the Falcons turned the ball over five more times than the Dukes and that contributed to Duquesne's 32-30 halftime lead.
Dakich said he noticed a significant improvement in Duquesne, a team BG beat 92-77 a year ago at Anderson Arena.
“What a difference Duquesne is from a year ago,” Dakich said. “Coach Nee has really done a good job getting them playing hard. We're just happy to get out of here with a win.”
Nee, who was a high school teammate of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Power Memorial High in New York City, coached six seasons at Ohio University (1980-86) and went 107-67 with the Bobcats, taking them to the NCAA Tournament twice.
He spent the next 14 years at Nebraska, where he was 254-189. His Cornhuskers played in the postseason every year before he moved on. He coached last season at another Pittsburgh-area college, Robert Morris. His team was 7-22.40.43833 -79.99746
Thirty-six hundred people disappeared for a few seconds here last night as Bowling Green's Keith McLeod went to the foul line. He hit both shots, and his team was a 64-62 winner.