BOWLING GREEN — If having lost seven straight games wasn't enough, the Bowling Green State University men's basketball team faced some added adversity Sunday against Florida International.
Junior forward Scott Thomas — the team's leading scorer and rebounder — did not play after suffering a back contusion after taking a hard fall in practice Friday.
But the Falcons used their best shooting day of the season to post a 76-67 victory over the Panthers at Anderson Arena.
BG shot 51 percent from the field, outrebounded the Panthers 35-30, and had more assists (17) than turnovers (14) to claim its first win against a Division I squad since beating Valparaiso on Feb. 20, 2010. The 2-8 Falcons' first win this season came against Division II Ohio Dominican.
"I'm happy for all the guys who stepped up, because losing Scott was a big loss for us," BG coach Louis Orr said. "Dee [Brown] stepped up, Danny [McElroy] stepped up, A'uston [Calhoun] made some big hoops, and the bench played well.
"Guys have a job to do. I thought James Erger gave us a solid seven minutes. Mike Dabney [gave us minutes], and I thought Craig Sealey was very good.
"It was a team win. And we need everyone to contribute."
Brown supplied much of the offense, scoring a career-high 24 points, while McElroy also finished with a career-high 15, and A'uston Calhoun added 12.
Brown said he didn't assume an added scoring burden when he learned Thomas wouldn't play.
"It was a big loss [to play without Scott]," Brown said. "He hits the glass hard, he makes the extra pass and scores the ball. But my role doesn't change."
The first half consisted of runs by both teams. Bowling Green scored nine straight points early, but the Panthers cut the Falcons' lead to one midway through the period. BG got seven straight soon after that, but a 14-8 finish in favor of FIU tied the game 35-35 at the half.
The Falcons' key run came in the first three minutes of the second half when they scored the first nine points to create a lead they never relinquished.
"We always talk about trying to win the first three minutes of the [second] half," Orr said. "The key to that is stops: we got five or six stops in a row. We got good shots, and we did a good job of taking what the defense gave us and making the extra pass.
"But it starts with the defense. When you're getting stops and getting points at the other end, that cushion became the difference [in the game] at the end."
Bowling Green forced Florida International to miss five of its first six shots in the second half. Meanwhile, Brown had five points in that run and scored 14 in the second half to carry the Falcon offense.
"I really was just playing within the flow of the game," Brown said. "I was just taking open shots and trying to create shots for my teammates — coach challenged me to do that."
Brown was 6-for-8 from the field in the game to lead the Falcons to their best shooting night of the season. BG was 27-for-53 from the floor, and that 51 percent shooting was far better than the Falcons' previous high, a 44 percent mark in the Ohio Dominican win.
Bowling Green also clamped down on FIU's Eric Frederick in the second half. Frederick, who made three 3-pointers in the first half and scored 17, had only two points in the second half.
"We respected his shooting [in the second half]," Orr said. "In the second half, we paid more attention to him, and he didn't get as many open looks."
Marvin Roberts had 24 points for Florida International (4-5), while DeJuan Wright added 12.
NOTES: There was a near-scuffle under the Bowling Green basket with 5:17 left in the game after Luke Kraus was intentionally fouled, but order was restored. Just 26 seconds later, BG's McElroy and FIU's Frederick were hit with technical fouls. … Orr said Thomas tried to get ready for Sunday's game — he took part in the pregame shoot-around. Orr hopes Thomas will play when BG returns to action Saturday at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. … Kraus finished with six assists, which doubled his previous career high. ... The attendance was announced at 685.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.