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CLEVELAND - In the pre-game shoot-around before the Bowling Green women's basketball team's MAC tournament quarterfinal game against Miami, guard Casey McDowell struggled with her shot.
"I had a really bad shoot-around," McDowell admitted. "I don't think I made a three in the shoot-around."
Bad? BG coach Curt Miller thought McDowell's shooting was worse than bad.
"I have never seen a kid have a worse shoot-around," Miller said. "Casey was so off, I didn't even know what to say to her. She had a terrible shoot-around - then had a great game."
Indeed. McDowell tied a MAC tournament record by making seven 3-pointers on her way to a career-best 31 points in leading the Falcons to an 84-68 win over the RedHawks.
With the victory Bowling Green, 21-7 overall, advances to the tournament semifinals. The top-seeded Falcons will face fourth-seed Eastern Michigan tomorrow starting at noon. The Eagles beat Ball State 72-64 in yesterday's second quarterfinal.
Miami finishes the season at 15-14.
McDowell made her first shot, a 3-pointer with just 1:07 gone, and had a career-best five treys in the first period in helping BG build a 44-35 halftime advantage.
"Our game plan was to pound the ball inside," McDowell said.
"I think they were so worried about our inside game, it opened up the outside for us. I didn't want to force it, but if I was open the ball was going up. And luckily they were falling."
Early in the second half the Falcons led by as many as 12 points before the RedHawks' Cindi Merrill made three straight baskets to cut BG's lead to five with 10:03 to play.
Bowling Green answered with a pair of free throws by freshman Kate Achter, and after another Merrill basket McDowell drilled another trey. When the RedHawks made another run to cut BG's lead to 58-54 with 7:43 left, the Falcons got contributions from a variety of players that fueled a 26-14 Bowling Green finish.
Achter again hit a driving jumper that sparked a seven-point run, which ended on Liz Honegger's three-point play. McDowell made eight of her 10 free throws in the final 4:51 to seal the win as the Falcons connected on 23 of 25 free throws in the game.
Merrill led Miami with 24 points, while Amanda Jackson had 16 and Sarah Hull scored 11.
McDowell, whose 31 points tied for 10th-most in tournament history, was backed by a 16-point, six-assist, five-steal effort by Achter as well as 15 points by Ali Mann, who scored in double figures for the eighth straight game.
Honegger nearly posted her seventh double-double of the season, finishing with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
But the player who left the RedHawks shaking their heads was McDowell.
"Casey McDowell came out of nowhere," Miami coach Maria Fantanarosa said. "We knew she was a solid player, but we were going up against Ali Mann and Liz Honegger and Carin Horne. You have to decide who you're going to give up points to."
It's a tough choice: Mann and Honegger were named second team all-MAC, while Horne received honorable mention. Achter was the runner-up for the league's freshman of the year honor.
"In case people forgot, you start the game with five people on the floor," Miller said. "Welcome to our fifth starter, Casey McDowell."
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