BOWLING GREEN - During a bus trip late last fall, Bowling Green State University coach Dan Dakich told Cole Magner, who had just joined the basketball squad from the football team, to just hang in there.
Dakich promised that there would be a time when the Falcons would call on the versatile wide receiver.
That time came yesterday, when Magner, a 6-1 sophomore from Alaska, was a dominant factor in a 51-48 win over Miami, the leader in the Mid-American Conference East Division. The Falcons (11-14, 7-9) ended a seven-game losing streak with their fifth straight win over the RedHawks.
“I felt all along that Cole was a kid who could come in and help us,” Dakich said, “and I don't think there's any question that he changed this game.”
A rash of injuries had forced BG to add three different football players to the basketball roster early in the season. Magner came in with the best credentials - he was one of the top athletes in his state as a senior, excelling in football, basketball and soccer.
He had played in 10 games for BG prior to yesterday, averaging about 10 minutes per game as a backup guard. Against Miami, Magner played 33 minutes, and scored eight points, grabbed eight rebounds and added four assists and six steals playing in front of 3,309 at Anderson Arena.
“I told coach Dakich that I would do anything he needed me to do - I just want to win,” Magner said. “In high school, I was always the go-to guy so I had to do a lot more scoring in every game, so coming off the bench like I have been - this has been different. But you're still a part of a team, and you have to be ready to play any role in helping the team win.”
Magner entered the game early in the first half after the Falcons developed extensive foul trouble that would plague them all afternoon. Once he came in, he never left the floor.
The Falcons had trailed by as many as six points, but when Magner made a series of hustle plays that started with a steal along the sideline, he fed Raheem Moss for a fastbreak basket that cut it to just two. BG was down 21-17 at the half against the MAC's best defensive team.
BG opened the second half with a run that wrested the lead from Miami. Magner hit two 3-pointers from the top of the key, with the second one giving the Falcons a 28-23 edge with about 15 minutes left.
“Cole came in and brought a lot of energy,” said BG junior Kevin Netter, who led the Falcons with 22 points. “He stirred things up and battled his butt off out there.”
The Falcons had three starters with four fouls by the midway point of the second half, but managed to lead by as many as 11 with a little over six minutes left. A pair of free throws by Ron Lewis with 5:31 left made it 46-35 for BG's biggest lead.
Miami (13-12, 11-5) made a surge and got back within three, 47-44, on Chet Mason's shot in the lane with about three minutes to play. The RedHawks got it down to just one, 49-48, in the frantic final minutes and had the ball and a chance for the lead with 20 seconds to play.
The RedHawks made an errant pass to the backcourt that Magner picked up on the fly with fewer than 10 seconds left, and he was intentionally fouled on a breakaway layup with 1.5 seconds to play. Magner hit both free throws to seal the win, the 100th of Dakich's career.
“The thing about guys like Cole who are competitors is that they have the strength and the sense to do things that put them in situations to make plays,” said Dakich, 100-71 at BG. “That's what he did all day long, was get in position to make plays. That was big at the end of the game, but the plays he made in the first half were just as big.”
Mason led the RedHawks with 14 points.
Oak Harbor's Nate Vandersluis came off the bench in the second half and provided four rebounds in seven minutes of play for the RedHawks.
“I think their need for a win was far more than our need for a win,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “We came in here in first place and they had lost seven games in a row, so there is no way you can have kids as hungry as their kids were.”