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Published: Sunday, 3/8/2009

Falcons win MAC crown, defeat Ohio Bobcats

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Falcons' coach Louis Orr takes shears to the net after Bowling Green took the regular-season MAC crown with a win over Ohio on Sunday. Falcons' coach Louis Orr takes shears to the net after Bowling Green took the regular-season MAC crown with a win over Ohio on Sunday.
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BOWLING GREEN Louis Orr finds scriptural correlations with many events in day-to-day life. For the Bowling Green State University coach, Sunday was rewarding spiritually, professionally and personally.

His team, which started out the season 1-3 in the Mid-American Conference, defeated Ohio 75-41 and won the MAC s regular-season championship. As a bonus, the Falcons ended up with the top seed for this week s conference tournament in Cleveland.

For the deeply religious Orr, this was not a trip to The Promised Land, but you could probably see it from where his team stands right now.

It s not over, but the journey so far has been just divine, Orr said.

Our guys, and the resiliency that they have shown all year, to be able to persevere and bounce back and turn things around they showed their true character. They grew up, they persevered, and part of the reward, the fruit of their labor, is a MAC championship.

After that 1-3 start in the league, the Falcons won six consecutive MAC games to position themselves for a shot at the title. An overtime loss at Miami last week jeopardized their championship hopes and put everything on the line against Ohio.

The game at Miami, the guys took it hard, Orr said. So to me, it showed that it [MAC championship] meant a lot to them, and it was something they really wanted.

BG needed to defeat Ohio, and have Buffalo down Miami in order to clinch its first league title since 2000, nail down the top seed for the league tournament, and secure the guaranteed NIT bid that goes to the MAC s top seed.

The Falcons (18-12, 11-5) came out of the chute and buried the Bobcats (14-16, 7-9).

It started with some rapid-fire 3-pointers, and when Nate Miller made a steal and scored on the break just over five minutes into the game, the Falcons led 18-3.

Bowling Green did not make its first turnover until midway through the first half, and used its opening push to build a 27-7 advantage after a pair of free throws by Scott Thomas.

We got off to a great start," Miller said. "Definitely our best effort of the year.

The barrage continued, and the Falcons pushed the lead to as many as 24 points before going to the locker room at the half with a 40-18 advantage.

Bowling Green shot 60 percent and held the Bobcats to 33 percent over the first 20 minutes.

It seems like we just took it to another level from the opening tip, senior guard Brian Moten said.

In the second half the magic was magnified for the Falcons. The huge lead they built allowed Orr to give his three seniors Miller, Moten and Darryl Clements individual curtain calls.

You have all of the emotion of the day last game of the season, senior day, playing for a MAC championship. There s a lot on the plate, so you are always a little concerned, Orr said.

But our guys played with a great deal of confidence. We shot the ball as well as we have for two halves all year, but it was our defense that was really, really good. We didn t allow OU to catch their breath. When you are defending and making shots, you can have a special day, and this was one of them.

Miller led the Falcons with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Clements scored 15, Otis Polk added 14 and Joe Jakubowski had 10.

A Bowling Green basketball team cut down the nets to signify a league championship for the second straight day. The BG women won their fifth straight outright MAC crown at Anderson Arena on Saturday.

Moten said the Falcon men talked about needing to carry their momentum into the conference tournament.

It just says a lot about our guys that we are already thinking about the MAC tournament, Moten saidf. All of the hard work we ve put in, we finally have something to show for it. Everything has fallen into place. It s just a great feeling.

Orr said the celebrating will be relatively subdued, since a MAC quarterfinal matchup against the winner of Tuesday s Western Michigan-Ohio game is looming Thursday evening at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

We need to be able to enjoy the moment, but stick to the formula that the next game is the biggest game of the year, Orr said. Right now, today, we are going to enjoy this.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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