BOWLING GREEN - The best women's basketball team in the Mid-American Conference five years in a row and counting is where you'll find the MAC's best player.
Bowling Green State University's Lauren Prochaska is the Falcons' top player and every MAC opponent's potential headache.
The junior playmaker, who is capable of playing nearly every position on the court, has been the kind of complete player every coach wishes to have at least once.
The 5-foot-11 guard-forward knows how to score points, averaging a team-leading 18.1 points per game. She's practically automatic from the foul line, having made 99 of 109 free throws (91 percent) this season.
"She's a fantastic finisher," BG coach Curt Miller said. "She's a high percentage finisher, so when she does get an open look, she's going to make a lot of those.
"What supplements Lauren's game is her ability to get to the foul line. When she gets to the foul line, she has a chance to get big numbers each and every night because she can shoot at the foul line so well."
Defensively, Prochaska's the Falcons' top player. Gifted with long arms and sure-and-steady hands, Prochaska reboundsbetter than anyone else on BG's roster, averaging a team-leading 5.1 rebounds.
And more often than not, she's asked to guard the opposition's top offensive player.
"The underrated part of Lauren's game is her defense," Miller said. "She's a fantastic defender. Her length really bothers people.
"She's smart. Obviously, she's got go-go Gadget arms, and she's so long it is really difficult to score over her. She's really a student of the game, and she takes the scouting report serious, and she understands where her [opponents] are trying to get shots or how they can get shots within their offense."
Prochaska is also a working dynamo who leads the Falcons in minutes played per game. She averages 31.9 minutes on the floor per game and is the only Falcon to see at least 30 minutes of action per contest. Considering the Falcons have defeated their opponents by an average of 14.1 points per game (74.0 - 59.9), her minutes could easily be a lot higher if necessary.
Despite being slowed by mononucleosis at the start of the year, Prochaska hasn't missed a beat and has played in all of the Falcons' 21 games, leading BG in scoring 11 times and rebounding 11 times.
The Prochaska-led Falcons (17-4, 7-0 MAC) face rival University of Toledo (29-5, 15-1 MAC) today at Savage Arena in a matchup pitting two of the conference's top teams. It is a much-anticipated meeting that figures to be a challenging contest for Prochaska and the rest of the Falcons on the road at UT.
"It's definitely going to be a big game and an exciting game," Prochaska said. "It's a huge rivalry. It's always a big game, especially this year because they're the leaders of the West [Division] and we're leading the East.
"We're really excited to play."
The midseason matchup is being billed as a game in which BG's mettle will be tested by its MAC rival. However, Eastern Michigan coach AnneMarie Gilbert, whose Eagles have fallen to BG and UT this season, thinks otherwise.
"Bowling Green is the best basketball team in the Mid-American Conference," Gilbert said. "I just think Bowling Green is a smarter basketball team. They have more talent at each position than Toledo, and they're just a little bit older and wiser than Toledo.
"Toledo does not have Lauren Prochaska and Tracy Pontius. Those are two players to be reckoned with."
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