BOWLING GREEN -- Western Kentucky did everything in its power to give the Bowling Green State University men's basketball team a victory Wednesday night.
The Hilltoppers committed an astounding 29 turnovers, including 19 in the second half, to help BG whittle a 17-point second half deficit down to two points with two minutes to play.
But the Falcons shooting woes shot that comeback in the foot. BG missed its final seven field goal attempts as well as a pair free throws in those last two minutes to lose 59-52.
Jordon Crawford finished with 15 points to lead Bowling Green (1-8), which lost for the seventh straight game, while Dee Brown added 10 as the Falcons' shooting woes continued. BG shot just 31 percent from the field (19-of-62) and made just 5-of-20 3-pointers (25 percent).
Steffphon Pettigrew had 13 points and nine rebounds for Western Kentucky (4-5), while Juan Pattillo collected 12 points and 10 boards and Caden Dickerson had 11.
"As a team, we're still searching to find ourselves - and it has been a challenge," Falcons coach Louis Orr said. "We see glimpses at times. But we still have to play better.
"We have to make more shots. We have opportunities, but we have to get more efficient at the offensive end. But I will say this: the energy and effort we played with during the last 10 minutes of the game - the way we scrapped and fought back - that's the kind of fight we need to play with all the time."
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Bowling Green's comeback began with the Falcons trailing 39-22 at the 14:19 mark of the second half. BG forced eight Hilltopper turnovers to spark a 15-5 run that cut the Falcons' deficit to 44-37 with 7:23 left.
"We wanted to create as many turnovers as we could without give up a lot of easy baskets," Orr said. "We tried to do some things out of our pressure and traps to create some offense.
"We went to more of a spread offense down the stretch, and that's an offense for guys to have the space to make plays. We got some steals and turnovers that led to easy baskets, and we got back into the game."
A 3-pointer by Crawford, who had 13 of his points in the second half, sparked a run that shaved Western Kentucky's lead to 54-52 with 2:00 on the clock. But the final seven misses -- Dee Brown missed two jumpers in the lane on one possession, Crawford and Danny McElroy missed open looks on the next, and both Crawford and Brown missed 3-pointers -- allowed Western Kentucky to hold on.
Even that was far from automatic, as the Hilltoppers missed five of seven free throws in that span before making their final three.
"I've seen Dee more those shots before, so I was comfortable watching him take those shots," Crawford said. "It was kind of chaotic, and maybe we could have taken the ball and reset it, but we've got to convert when we need to convert."
The first half was a sloppy affair, with the two teams combining for 19 turnovers. A three-point play on a fast-break layup by Joe Jakubowski made the score 20-17 Hilltoppers with 3:12 left in the period.
Western Kentucky responded with an eight-point run, with Pettigrew scoring six of those points. BG' Scott Thomas made a 3-pointer from the left corner with 49 seconds left to account for the 28-20 score at the break.
The Hilltoppers scored the first seven points of the second half to threaten to turn the game into a rout, but instead that merely set the stage for a BG comeback.
"We need to take the last 10 minutes of the game and build off of it," Crawford said. "I know it's hard, but we have to stay positive and be ready to work so we get better each day."
Orr agreed, adding, "The courage is starting to come out. We're starting to see the guys who have the courage to make plays. Some times the only way to tell that is by putting them in the fire.
"We've been in the fire. But it was good to get in the fire [Wednesday night]; it was good to have a chance at the end of the game to win. We just have to play better."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.