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BOWLING GREEN - There's a long way to go in the Mid-American Conference basketball season, but yesterday the Bowling Green men took a big first step.
The Falcons found plenty of positives in their 95-88 victory over Buffalo at Anderson Arena.
BG put a poor performance in its previous game, a 24-point loss at Oakland, in the rear-view mirror to improve to 7-2 overall and 1-0 in the league. And the victory came against a Buffalo team picked to win the MAC's East Division. The Bulls fell to 7-3 and 0-2.
"This [game] was a great opportunity, number one, and a great measure, number two," said Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich. "The opportunity was to come back against a team that was picked to win the other side. The measure was to see how [the team] bounced back. And we handled both of them."
It certainly wasn't easy for the Falcons, though, as they fought through 11 ties before pulling away in the game's final seven minutes. Trailing 72-69 with 6:50 left, John Floyd hit a baseline jumper to cut the lead to one. Then following a BG timeout, Josh Almanson hit a short jumper in the low block to give the Falcons the lead for good.
Cory Eyink followed with a 3-pointer just before the shot clock ran out to make the lead 76-72 with 4:13 left.
"I thought Cory Eyink's three really spread the game out," Dakich said. "The lead certainly wasn't comfortable, but at least we were going to be ahead after the next possession. We wanted to get ahead by two possessions."
Buffalo's Calvin Cage hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one, but Germain Fitch scored all five of his points in the Falcons' next two possessions. The junior scored on the low block, was fouled and made a free throw with 3:29 to play, then took a feed from Floyd for a dunk that made it 81-75 with 2:52 left.
The Bulls never got closer than three points the rest of the way as Bowling Green made 13 of 15 free throws at the end.
"On the one where Fitch dunked, he really saved me because I was trapped in the corner," Floyd admitted. "He recognized it and cut down the middle. That was a big play because it broke their back a little bit."
Floyd came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, making him one of four Falcons to finish in double figures. Steven Wright also had a career high with 20, while Almanson led all scorers with 26 and John Reimold added 15.
Cage led Buffalo with 23 points, while Turner Battle and Roderick Middleton each had 14 and Yassin Idbihi scored 11.
The game was full of statistics that were hard to fathom. Two good examples were that the Bulls outrebounded BG 37-24, including 17 offensive boards, and shot 52.4 percent from the floor, yet didn't win.
"It is probably unusual for a team to go on the road, outrebound their opponent by 13 rebounds, shoot over 50 percent and lose," said Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon. "But when you turn the ball over 23 times, you leave that possibility on the table.
"If you look down at the stat sheet and try to figure the game out based on the stats, you'd have a hard time doing that."
Bowling Green's 95 points was the team's largest total in a MAC game since January of 2000, when the Falcons netted 96 in a six-point win at Buffalo. But while both teams had hot shooting hands from the floor - Bowling Green connected on 65.4 percent of its shots - the fault didn't lay entirely on the two defenses.
"I don't think it was bad defense by either team," Floyd said. "I think it was the rhythm of the game, really up-and-down. Both teams were in the flow."
NOTES: Almanson left the game because of cramps late in the second half and did not return. He is expected to play Thursday at Marshall. ... Fans who came to yesterday's game donated $1,777 to be given to the Red Cross to aid areas of south Asia ravaged by a tsunami last week.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.