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Published: Monday, 3/23/2009

Falcons defeat Syracuse

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Lauren Prochaska had just willed Bowling Green State University to a victory, and her teammates gathered at midcourt to cheer the dramatic ending.

The Falcons were celebrating a 72-69 win over Syracuse in a Women's National Invitation Tournament second-round game, but Prochaska wasn't able to join them.

After her blocked shot to seal the win, her second in the final three seconds of the game at Anderson Arena, Prochaska crumpled to the floor. She ended her 22-point, 17-rebound performance in tears and needed help off the court with a knee injury.

"When the final buzzer went off and we knew that we won, it was exciting," sophomore Tracy Pontius said. "When you see that your star player is down in the corner, your heart just stops. [I'm] speechless.

"She grabbed my hand and said, 'my knee.' It was heart-stopping."

The Falcons (29-4) advance to play Indiana (20-10) in the third round at

7 p.m. Thursday at Anderson Arena.

The status of Prochaska, the Mid-American Conference player of the year, is

unknown.

"When your leader is sitting there in agony - we've never seen her cry - and certainly without question injured, it stings," BG coach Curt Miller said. "I don't want to take away from the program, and Lauren wouldn't either. What an amazing win."

BG played from behind nearly the entire game, falling down 11 points with eight minutes left in the first half. Syracuse's Nicole Michael (22 points, 13 rebounds) was one of several Orange players dominating the offensive glass. The Orange (17-15) also nailed several jump shots off the dribble.

"We kept trying to stick to making them make tough shots," Miller said. "As long as we made those plays as difficult as possible we felt OK with ourselves."

The Falcons cut their deficit to two by halftime and stayed within one or two baskets most of the second half. Syracuse denied BG's 3-point shot, so the Falcons fed Niki McCoy inside and she came through with 20 points. Pontius added 19 points, playing the entire 40 minutes under constant full-court pressure.

BG tied the score with seven minutes to play and again with four. Prochaska hit a rainbow 3-pointer with 3:27 remaining to put the Falcons up for good, 64-61. She scored eight of BG's final 11 points.

"Lauren and Tracy both were just fantastic continuing to want the ball," Miller said. "Niki stepped up in big moments and proved she could play against elite competition."

The Falcons used the crowd of 2,072 to their advantage. Syracuse's first-round game was played at home in front of an

attendance of 376.

"The fans were unreal," Pontius said. "I think that really got under Syracuse's skin because they're not used to playing in front of large crowds."

Said Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman: "It was an honor to be playing in front of such a great college basketball crowd."

Four times in the final three minutes BG took a two-possession lead only to have Syracuse score. Pontius made one of two foul shots with eight seconds left, and the Orange had a chance to tie, down three.

Tasha Harris squared up for what looked to be a open 3 from the wing, but Prochaska flew in and blocked it out of bounds with three seconds left. Erica Morrow had another attempt from the corner and Prochaska got a piece of it before crumpling in the corner.

Said Pontius: "You hope for the best."

"It's not often we get a BCS team in here to play, and we wanted to take advantage of our opportunity and show that we could compete against people in those top six conferences," Miller said. "I give our kids so much credit for grinding and sticking to it, never going away."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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