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BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University men's basketball team found out the difficulty of trying to repeat as Mid-American Conference regular-season champions.
A year after winning 20 games and finishing with a league-best 11-5 record in the MAC, the Falcons never figured out how to put it together on a consistent basis. They dropped their last four games of the season, including a 75-73 loss at Western Michigan in the first round of the MAC Tournament Sunday.
The Falcons finished 14-16 overall and 6-10 in conference.
At times, BG showed glimpses of the team that claimed a title a year earlier, but there were plenty other times they simply didn't play like a champion.
“You win games with competitive toughness and that's something that really was not our personality for the entire year,” coach Louis Orr said. “We had it in pieces, in parts.
“I wouldn't describe our team as having that killer, competitive toughness that you need all the time.”
But Orr has reason to think optimistically about the future even with frontcourt players Otis Polk, Erik Marschall, and Marc Larson graduating.
The Falcons relied heavily on underclassmen this season for input and production, leading with junior Joe Jakubowski and sophomores Scott Thomas and Dee Brown.
Jakubowski, a St. John's Jesuit graduate, finished the season leading the Falcons in assists per game (3.7) and free-throw percentage (78 percent) while ranking second in minutes per game (32.5) only to Thomas (34.7).
Thomas, a 6-foot-6 forward, led the Falcons in scoring (13.2) and steals (1.6) and is considered one of the most promising young talents in the MAC.
Orr thinks Thomas has the tools to become a special player.
“Scott Thomas, as much as any player that I've ever been around over a two-year period, he's grown more of any player I've ever been around,” he said. “He's constantly in attack mode. His motor is constantly going and he's a high energy guy.
“His toughness registered and it elevated. Figuratively speaking, he has broad shoulders. He doesn't mind being that guy, but he's got the game to do it.
“Now he hasn't arrived yet, but he's made great leaps and he's learned what he has to do to be effective.”
Also, freshmen Jordon Crawford, Luke Kraus, and Danny McElroy saw playing time.
A year after finishing at the top of the conference standings, the Falcons placed last in the East Division and only Toledo's 1-15 MAC record was worse. It certainly didn't meet BG's expectations.
“We're disappointed because you want to compete for championships,” Orr said. “That's what we wanted, but we're not discouraged and our guys work really hard. We know where our inconsistencies were in terms of what we need to be a more consistent team.
“But we did some good things and that's what is teasing. You play some good games. You do some good things and you get some good wins, but you just don't get enough of them because you don't do enough of those things consistently to put yourself in that position.
“You just have to build on it and go from there.”
Contact Donald Emmons at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6302.