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Published: Monday, 1/16/2006

Lesson learned: Falcons hold off Rockets to close out a close game

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN For the second time in a week, the Bowling Green State University men s basketball team led a close game late.

Given another chance, this time the Falcons finished on top.

BGSU beat the University of Toledo 59-52 at Anderson Arena yesterday. In the past five games between the Falcons and the Rockets, the home team has won.

With 50 seconds left, UT junior Justin Ingram sank two free throws to close the Falcons lead to three. But BGSU junior John Floyd responded by making a jumper in traffic, and senior Mawel Soler rebounded Ingram s 3-point miss with nine seconds left.

When you respect the opponent that you re playing, it always feels good [to win], BG coach Dan Dakich said.

The Falcons showed that they learned from their one-point loss to Northern Illinois on Wednesday, a game lost in the final seconds when a Huskie player made a tip-in.

We felt we had Northern Illinois beat. We did have them beat, Soler said. You re talking to the guy who missed the block out. It was just that we had to play for 40 minutes. [Against Toledo] we got off to an early start and we just finished up strong with defense.

The Falcons forced 24 Rocket turnovers helped by 13 steals, five each by Soler and senior Steven Wright. UT, however, only had two steals. The Falcons gave up the ball just three times in the second half.

Obviously we re disappointed, UT coach Stan Joplin said. We didn t come up with plays down the stretch. A loose ball, free throw, whatever it took, we didn t do it.

BG improved to 6-8 overall and 2-2 in the Mid-American Conference. UT (8-5) is 1-4 in the MAC, including 0-3 in road games against opponents from the East division.

You try to steal some games on the road, Joplin said. And so many games are decided in the last 1-2 minutes. We had some opportunities. I thought we put ourselves in position to win, but we didn t close out the game.

Soler had a career-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds and constant defensive pressure on Ingram. The Falcons top scorer, Martin Samarco, had 12 points despite a nightmare 3-of-21 shooting performance.

As they had in their past two games, the Falcons got out to a large lead early in front of the crowd of 3,281. After the first 10 minutes BG was up 13-2.

But the Rockets, using runs of 8-0 and 11-0, took a four-point lead late in the half. The Falcons went seven minutes without a field goal, largely because of Allen Pinson s defense down low. Two Samarco free throws and Moon Robinson s layup tied the score going into halftime, which pleased Dakich.

We didn t break down on the defensive end when we weren t scoring, and we came out of a couple of timeouts and got baskets, Dakich said.

The Falcons again jumped out early in the second half but failed to extend it further because of several missed layups. That set up another close finish.

With 8:54 remaining UT took its first lead of the second half, 41-40 on Ingram s 3-point play. Soon after, the Falcons started to show a sixth sense in getting to loose balls.

Sometimes the basketball gods bounce it your way, Dakich said.

A Wright free throw, coming on a foul when he scrambled for a ball on the floor, tied the game. Soler made his second 3-pointer of the game to put the Falcons ahead, a lead they never lost.

The Rockets didn t score a field goal in the final 2:38. A familiarity with the tight scenario helped the Falcons, Dakich said.

It s the second time we ve been through it, Dakich said. We had not been through it all year. Our games were either, we got beat, or we beat someone, with the exception of Virginia Tech. Experience in these situations from the other night helped as well.

Ingram led the Rockets with 15 points and five rebounds. Both teams play on the road Wednesday, the Falcons at Eastern Michigan and the Rockets at Miami.

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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