OXFORD, Ohio - The voice became shaky. Then the eyes brimmed with tears.
This win was different than any other during the last seven years. It encompassed so much - the early struggles, the conference championships, the Sweet 16 run. This was a win worth crying over.
"We sat in Kate's [Achter] living room five years ago and talked about having our dreams come true together," Bowling Green State University coach Curt Miller said. "They're about ready to come true."
Miller became the winningest coach in program history yesterday following BG's 81-66 victory at Miami. His 145 victories put him ahead of Fran Voll, who was on hand to address the Falcons in the locker room after the game.
Miller was hired in 2001 and won just 21 games combined in his first two seasons. But then came a 21-win season, followed by a Mid-American Conference championship, followed by two more. Miller's stamp on the program has been immeasurable.
"It's not often that players can read their coaches so well," Achter said. "He knows his X's and O's but he also knows his personality. He knows how to get through to his players."
That response from Achter had Miller choked up a bit as he retold that recruiting story from five years ago in Achter's living room. Miller was otherwise composed. Instead of focusing on his accomplishment, he highlighted a win between teams battling for first place in the MAC. He also praised Achter and guard Whitney Taylor as they are now tied with last year's senior class for the most wins in MAC basketball history, female or male.
"Tonight, the 145 is totally overshadowed by how big of a win that was for us," Miller said.
He's got a point.
The Falcons (21-6, 10-3) will win the MAC regular season title outright by finishing the season unbeaten against Ohio, Buffalo and Akron. Yesterday's win was BG's sixth in a row following a three-game losing streak that began with a 63-60 defeat to Miami on Jan. 22. In that game, BG struggled to make shots and didn't put together enough defensive plays in important moments. Yesterday, ironically, the Falcons put the game away with a 12-2 run and by holding Miami to just two field goals in the final 6:30. Lindsey Goldsberry's 3-pointer to put BG ahead 70-60 was the deal breaker with 3:26 to go.
"When it was a 10-point lead we couldn't chip away at it with our defense," Miami coach Maria Fantanarosa said. "They took their time and got to the free throw line at the end of the shot clock."
Miami (17-10, 9-4) had won six in a row.
Several great individual performances were eclipsed by Miller's milestone.
In a battle of the MAC's top scorer vs. one of its best defenders, Goldsberry held Amanda Jackson to 15 points on just 5 of 15 shooting. Jackson torched BG for 27 points in the earlier meeting but was mostly unable to get open for good looks yesterday.
"Lindsey Goldsberry, she's a phenomenal defensive player," Fantanarosa said.
Achter had a double-double for the second game in a row with 16 points and 10 assists. Freshman Lauren Prochaska shot just 5 of 16 from the field yet finished with a game-high 21 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Prochaska played all 40 minutes but didn't show signs of fatigue as she continued to pull down boards and make free throws late in the game.
"That's because she sleeps all the time," Achter said.
Two other freshmen played prominent roles as well. Jen Uhl scored seven straight points for BG in the last few minutes of the first half when the Falcons trimmed a nine-point deficit to just two heading into the break. And then there was Chelsea Albert, whose nine points and seven rebounds don't represent the impact she made when starter Tara Breske was on the bench in foul trouble. Albert did more than hold her own against Miami's strong post presence, notably Perrysburg native Laura Markwood. Markwood was limited to six points and seven rebounds - eight fewer than the last time the teams played.
"Chelsea had her best game of the year on the biggest stage of the year," Miller said. "We don't win without Chelsea's contribution tonight."
Albert spoke similarly of her coach.
"We wouldn't have won that game without all the preparation and all the hard work he puts in," Albert said. "That's why he has the record."
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