BOWLING GREEN - Yesterday the strength of the Bowling Green State University's basketball team became its Achilles heel.
The Falcons came into their showdown with Western Michigan ranked among the national field-goal shooting leaders by making more than 51 percent of their shots
But BG managed to shoot just 41.0 percent in a 70-61 loss.
The clash of the Mid-American Conference's last two unbeaten teams, played before a raucous crowd of 4,011 fans at Anderson Arena, left Bowling Green 10-3 overall and 4-1 in the league. The Broncos' victory lifted them to a spot alone atop the MAC's West Division at 12-3 and 5-0.
"We came in here playing well, and I thought we had a really good environment in here, and Western never flinched," said BG coach Dan Dakich. "We fought; there was no problem with [our effort]. The problem was execution - really making shots. We didn't knock in some of the looks we got."
That problem began early as the Falcons made just one of their first eight shots from the floor. At the same time Western Michigan connected on 6-of-8 to start the contest, building early leads of 8-2 and 15-6.
We were able to get some stops defensively, and we were able to get some shots [to fall], Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said of his team s fast start. We improvised pretty well, and we just had some kids knock down some shots.
Dakich said he wasn t worried even though his team s early shots weren t falling.
I know they were on us, but I liked how we were playing, he said. I felt like it was going to be a game down the stretch.
It became a game because the Falcons found a way to make runs at the Broncos. BG got a boost from freshman point guard Perrick Moon Robinson, who had five points and four assists in the first half. He finished with seven points and five assists, both season highs.
The Falcons problem was that they often scrapped and hustled to come close to Western Michigan, but could never stay close once they got close.
BG cut the Broncos lead to two points on several occasions in the first half but still trailed 37-33 at the break. In the second half the Falcons led 40-39 when Robinson made a layup with 15:35 left, and tied the game twice midway through the period, but again weren t able to hold onto that lead.
We had to play hard on the defensive end, and we had to play hard on the offensive end, Robinson said. Coming back took a toll on some of the guys. But everything fell out of place when they hit big shots and foul calls [went against us].
Robinson thought the emotional nature of the game, which included a halftime scrum in the tunnel that leads to the locker rooms, also affected the Falcons negatively.
Whatever happened gave our team a lot of emotion, he said. I thought maybe we spent too much emotion on what happened.
But BG s biggest problem was its shooting struggles, which were unusual for a team that led the MAC in field-goal percentage with 51.8 percent shooting, including a red-hot 53.8 percent mark in league games. Yesterday s was BG s second-worst shooting game this season.
I felt for the most part we got really good looks, Dakich said. I thought Josh missed some pretty good looks, and in the first half in particular I thought we missed a lot of shots around the baskets.
My disappointment was that, every time we ran hard, good, tough offense we would get a good shot, but we would do that for a possession or two and the next time down the floor we would stand around.
NOTES: Saturday s basketball doubleheader at Anderson Arena is officially a sellout, according to BG officials. Only 1,400 student tickets remain for the twinbill, which includes a women s game against Western Michigan starting at 3 p.m. and a men s contest against Toledo at 6 p.m. ... Germain Fitch left the game with 1:26 to play because of cramps, not an injury to his surgically repaired knee. He is expected to play Tuesday at Ball State.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.