YPSILANTI, Mich. - There's no reason to think Bowling Green wouldn't have beaten Eastern Michigan last night.
After all, the Falcons came into the contest having won three in a row and nine of their last 10, and they were undefeated in MAC play.
Things were made a little easier for BG when the Eagles lost John Bowler, a senior who averages a team-best 15 points but who did not play due because of a back injury.
But Eastern Michigan coach Jim Boone said the loss of Bowler was not the reason Bowling Green claimed a 79-63 victory over the Eagles.
"Bowling Green was tremendous," he said. "They were quicker than us, they played harder than us, they screened harder than us, they cut harder than us, they defended harder than us.
"They really played well."
The Falcons shot better than 53 percent from the floor in the contest, and they outrebounded the smaller Eagles 36-31. BG also took advantage of Bowler's absence by scoring 40 points in the paint and forced 15 turnovers that helped stifle the Eastern Michigan offense.
John Reimold scored a game-high 24 points to lead four players in double figures for Bowling Green, now 10-2 overall and 4-0 in the Mid-American Conference. Josh Almanson finished with 15, while Steven Wright and Mawel Soler added 13 and 12, respectively, Eastern Michigan, which fell to 9-5, 3-2, was led by Darryl Garrett's 19 points.
BG coach Dan Dakich was worried that his team wouldn't react the right way when they learned just before the game that Bowler would not play.
"I was worried because kids sometimes let down [when they hear other teams are at a disadvantage]," Dakich said. "But we didn't. We played as a team, we helped each other, and we were in the right spots. Our seniors had us ready to play."
Eastern Michigan opened the game with a 3-pointer, then countered an eight-point Falcons run to tie the score 8-8.
But BG got its offense rolling behind the 6-6 Reimold, who took advantage of Michael Ross (5-10) by scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes.
"I played center in high school, so I'm pretty experienced in the post," Reimold said. "My teammates did a good job of spreading out and getting me the ball."
Then Soler and Wright combined for 10 of the Falcons' final 14 points of the half and BG took a 41-26 lead into the break.
In the second half, Eastern Michigan cut the Falcons' lead to 12 points with 10:01 to play, but BG went on a 13-3 run that included a pair of 3s by Reimold, and the Eagles never challenged again.
"When they went to the zone I made sure I stayed on the same side [of the floor] as John Floyd," Reimold said. "He can really pass-fake, get in the gaps and find me. He did that really well."
Floyd finished with a season-high 12 assists and made only one turnover.
Bowling Green forced the Eagles to shoot just 33.3 percent from the floor in the first half and just 41.5 percent for the game.
"I thought our defense was good," Dakich said. "Last year we got beat here by a variety of ball screens, but I thought our guys guarding the ball - mostly Steven Wright and John Floyd - did a nice job of avoiding the screen or getting through it.
"We handled the things that they presented."
While Boone wasn't willing to use the loss of Bowler as an excuse, Dakich realized Eastern Michigan wasn't quite the same without him.
"When you lose a guy like Bowler, what most people look at is his statistics: the scoring, the rebounding," Dakich said. "What you lose is his interior strength, physical presence, defense inside, and the pressure he puts on the other team."
Reimold agreed, adding, "Unfortunately for them, they weren't at their best. But a win's a win, a road win is a road win, and we'll take what we can get."
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