ROSEMONT, Ill. - For the first half of yesterday's game, the Bowling Green men's basketball team was positioning itself to upset DePaul.
For the first seven minutes of the second half, the Falcons
positioned themselves into a hole so deep they never could come back.
BG's second-half struggles, particularly on defense, allowed the Blue Demons to manufacture an 18-4 run in those first seven minutes and beat the Falcons 69-59 at Allstate Arena in the season-opening contest for both teams.
"We came out like a team that had just won a half of basketball and was happy to do that,'' said Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich. "It seemed as if we were hoping and thinking we had won the first half, we'll surely win the second half.''
The Falcons won that opening half thanks primarily to their defense. BG forced DePaul to commit 10 first-half turnovers and to shoot just 36 percent from the floor. The Falcons even kept Drake Diener, who averaged 12.6 points per game a year ago, from scoring a single point.
"Their aggression, they saw it and felt comfortable it was working,'' said DePaul coach Dave Leitao of Bowling Green's defense. "So they kept increasing it and increasing it.''
But the Falcons led just 25-23 at the break as they hit just 42.3 percent of their shots and committed six turnovers.
The problem in the second half for the Falcons was that, while the offense improved only slightly, the defense slipped. The Blue Demons shot 51.7 percent from the field, including a sizzling 57.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc, and BG was unable to match that pace.
"We don't feel it was offense [that cost us this win],'' said senior Josh Almanson, who finished with 17 points. "We had a [defensive] scouting report that we used in the first half, and we had way too many mistakes in the second half.''
In that 18-4 second-half run, Diener scored seven of his 14 points while Sammy Mejia added four of his game-high 22.
"I thought DePaul played a really good second half,'' Dakich said. "They went to the guys who are their best players really well. Diener got started after he didn't do much in the first half, and I thought Mejia was really tough in the second half.''
The Falcons made two late runs. The first started following a timeout at the 7:27 mark as BG cut the lead to 51-49. The run ended when Germain Fitch tipped in a missed shot with
5:23 to play.
Bowling Green seemed to have DePaul stopped on its next possession, but Marlon Brumfield corralled a loose rebound and scored while being fouled, then sank the free throw.
Almanson then was called for traveling on a spin move near the basket, and Diener nailed a 3 on the Blue Demons' next possession.
The second rally saw the Falcons cut DePaul's lead to four with 3:11 left in the game after a Cory Eyink steal and feed to John Reimold for a break-away layup. But on the next possession Mejia was left wide open for a trey that he sank, dashing BG's hopes.
"We couldn't get over the hump,'' Almanson said. "It was a mistake here, a mistake there. We'd miss a switch, and they'd hit a 3. With things like that, you can't get over the hump.''
Steven Wright, with a career-high 17 points, tied Almanson for BG scoring honors. Reimold finished with 11 and Eyink had 10.
BG's three seniors - Almanson, Eyink and Reimold - combined for 38 of the Falcons' points, while those three plus Wright accounted for all but four of Bowling Green's total.
"The three seniors have given absolutely everything they have to the operation,'' Dakich said. "Some of our other guys need to join them.''
NOTES: Freshman Perrick "Moon'' Robinson, a Chicago native, earned the start in his first college game. He did not score but had four assists, two steals and no turnovers in 17 minutes. ... Last season the Falcons broke the school record by making 77.5 percent of their free-throw attempts. Yesterday the Falcons made all seven of their free throws. The first free throw came when Almanson was fouled after scoring on BG's first possession; the next came on a pair of tosses by Almanson with 11:25 left in the game.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.