CLEVELAND - When you battle the giant, sometimes Goliath wins. Last night Bowling Green squared off against Central Michigan and its 7-footer Chris Kaman, this season's Mid-American Conference player of the year. After holding Kaman in check for a good stretch of the first half, the Falcons ran out of troops and ammunition to finish the battle as Kaman scored 25 points grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked six shots to lead his team to an 87-70 win in a quarterfinal round game in the MAC Tournament.
CLEVELAND - When you battle the giant, sometimes Goliath wins.
Last night Bowling Green squared off against Central Michigan and its 7-footer Chris Kaman, this season's Mid-American Conference player of the year.
After holding Kaman in check for a good stretch of the first half, the Falcons ran out of troops and ammunition to finish the battle as Kaman scored 25 points grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked six shots to lead his team to an 87-70 win in a quarterfinal round game in the MAC Tournament.
Bowling Green, led by freshman Ronald Lewis who scored a career high 30 points, made it very interesting before bowing out with a 13-16 record. The Falcons led by as many as 10 in the first half as they doubled-up and held Kaman without a basket or a rebound for the first 12 minutes of the game.
“We did a good job at the start because we hit some shots and moved the ball,'' Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich said, “but they were a little bit like dripping water - they just kept coming and coming.''
The Falcons came to Cleveland as the No. 9 seed after upsetting Ball State on the road in the first round. Bowling Green got an NBA range 3-pointer from Cory Eyink and two treys from John Reimold to put together an early run, and when Lewis scored on a pass from Cole Magner on a backdoor cut to the basket, Bowling Green had a 24-14 advantage eight minutes into the game.
Central Michigan (22-6) grabbed the momentum and Kaman started to see the ball more, and his putback basket pushed Central ahead 27-26 with 7:45 left in the first half.
A Kaman layup two minutes later put CMU on top for good. The Chippewas opened the lead to as many as six points before taking a 37-32 advantage at the half.
“That's one team we don't match up well with,'' Dakich said. “We don't match up against their guards, and Kaman is a tough match for anyone. He's the best force I've seen in this league in the six years I've been here. He plays hard and he plays with passion, and I think it's fun to compete against really good players like that.''
Injuries early in the season had cut Bowling Green down to just two inside players, Kevin Netter and Eyink, and both were carrying four fouls early in the second half - the price of an evening spent guarding Kaman. The Falcons found themselves in a 17-point hole when they went through the first six minutes of the second half without a field goal.
Bowling Green cut the lead to 12 with 10 minutes to play when Lewis hit two of his 15 free throws, but by then Eyink had fouled out and Netter was on the bench with four fouls. BG used a phalanx of 6-4 players to defend Kaman after Netter fouled out with about six minutes to play.
When Lewis scored inside with four minutes left, the lead was down to 76-64, but Kaman led a strong Central Michigan finish that puts the Chippewas in tonight's semifinals. Lewis, who had 29 points in the win over Ball State, set MAC Tournament records for free throws made (37) and attempted (43) in just two games. Several times Lewis broke to the basket and tried to dunk the ball over the 7-foot Kaman.
“We knew he was the key, so we wanted to go at him early and often,'' Lewis said. “I was just trying to get him in foul trouble and get him out of the game.''
“Ron is fearless,'' Dakich said. “If there's a better freshman around, I don't know who it is.''
Central Michigan, the MAC regular season champion this season with a 14-4 record, won in Cleveland for the first time.
“That's a very good team we played out there,'' Dakich said, “and I can't be more proud of our guys just battling their brains out against them. We were just fighting all of the way. I'm not proud of our record, but I am very proud of the effort.''
Bowling Green advanced to the MAC Tournament championship game last year before losing to Kent State.