GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Bowling Green State University men's basketball team had its share of trouble getting to the Oneida Casino Holiday Classic, but the Falcons had few worries in their opening game.
After a day filled with travel problems en route to Wisconsin-Green Bay's annual holiday tournament, BGSU never trailed in its 58-46 victory yesterday over Michigan Tech, a Division II school from Houghton, Mich.
The Falcons didn't arrive in Green Bay until 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday and missed their scheduled practice here. The team left campus after a 7 a.m. practice and traveled by bus to the Detroit airport, where its one-hour flight to Green Bay was scheduled to depart at 12:13 p.m.
However, the flight was canceled, leaving the Falcons to search for an alternate mode of transportation. A bus finally was secured and the team was on the road by 2 p.m., and arrived in Green Bay more than 14 hours after their day began.
"It took us awhile, but we got here," BG coach Dan Dakich said. "It wasn't bad. Just put a couple of movies in and give them a couple of double cheeseburgers. The problem we ran into is we weren't able to practice in here at all [on Tuesday]."
That the Falcons were a bit sluggish at the start probably shouldn't have been a surprise. They missed their first six shots before sophomore guard Brian Moten hit the first of five, first-half 3-pointers.
The Falcons (8-3) won their fourth straight and seventh in their last eight games thanks to some solid defense that came after some prodding from Dakich, who halfway through the first half screamed at his team: "We've got to play some defense." His team led 21-12 at that point, and Michigan Tech scored only two more points the rest of the half.
"Coach wants the ball picked up full court the whole game," said junior guard Ryne Hamblet, who led the Falcons with 18 points and 11 rebounds. "He wants 40 minutes of pressure basketball."
A first half in which the Huskies (7-5) made just 5-of-24 shots (20.8 percent) was evidence that the Falcons listened to Dakich. Michigan Tech didn't have a player score in double figures. The Falcons have been solid on the defensive side for most of the season, holding eight of their first 11 opponents under 70 points this season, and they lead the Mid-American Conference in steals (9.1 per game).
Senior guard Martin Samarco, the MAC's scoring leader and the eighth-highest scorer in all of Division I basketball, struggled with his outside shot in the first half, when he missed all four of his 3-pointers. But Dusan Radivojevic and Hamblet gave the Falcons a lift off the bench. Each hit a pair of first-half 3s.
"I told the kids I don't care who's on the court, we've got play," Dakich said. "The kid who came off the bench and did a good job was Hamblet. Without him hitting those shots, it was going to get serious."
The Falcons won despite shooting just 36.2 percent. The Huskies got to within nine points, 34-25, with 13:34 remaining, but the Falcons pushed their lead to as many as 24 in the second half.
BGSU has the day off today and then plays Jacksonville State here on Friday and then host Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday.
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