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Published: Thursday, 12/16/2010

Bowling Green's Prochaska automatic at free-throw line

BOWLING GREEN -- When you think of Lauren Prochaska, the first thing that comes to your mind probably is her scoring.

And that makes sense, because her 1,922 career points are the second-highest point total to Jackie Motycka's 2,122 points in the storied history of the women's basketball program at Bowling Green State University.

This season the senior from Plain City, Ohio, is averaging 20.3 points per game to lead the Falcons to a 10-1 start. That scoring average, by the way, ranks 17th nationally among Division I players.

But the things that have made Prochaska the two-time Mid-American Conference player of the year -- and that make her a potential All-American candidate this season -- go well beyond scoring.

"Lauren Prochaska is not just a scorer, and she's not just a foul shooter. She's a complete player," Bowling Green coach Curt Miller said.

Not only does Prochaska lead the Falcons in scoring, but she tops the team in rebounding (6.6 rebounds per game) and steals (1.8 steals per game).

What's more, her work on all facets of the game has made her one of the premier players in the nation.

"It's the culture here -- you learn that it's all about work ethic," Prochaska said. "You learn that the coaches push you to be better. They're never satisfied that we've played well or won a big game.

Lauren Prochaska has made 67 straight free throws, an NCAA Division I women's record. Lauren Prochaska has made 67 straight free throws, an NCAA Division I women's record.
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"You know the next day you're going to be pushed to be better."

And her willingness to work on her game has made her one of the NCAA's top players in several other categories.

"Foul shooting is something I've always practiced, so I've always been pretty good at it," Prochaska said. "It's just natural now."

Prochaska is more than just "pretty good" at shooting foul shots. She has made 75-of-76 free throw attempts this season, and her 98.7 free-throw percentage is tops in the country.

What's more, she has made her last 67 consecutive free throws, an NCAA Division I record.

Prochaska said there isn't much she can teach anyone who would like to learn her foul-shooting secrets.

"I really don't think too much when I go to the line," she said. "I just try to do my normal routine and shoot like I always do.

"I've reached a point where I step to the line and nothing goes through my mind except, 'Spin the ball, dribble twice, and shoot.' It's a learned routine now."

Miller said Prochaska has all the ingredients to be a good foul shooter.

"There's a confidence [good foul shooters have]," Miller said. "There's a routine. She has such a great demeanor to be a great foul shooter.

"And it's repetition. It's the same routine, the same preparation, each and every time she goes up there."

What Miller said often is overlooked is Prochaska's ability to draw fouls and go to the line; of the top 150 free-throw shooters in Division I, only one has taken more foul shots.

"She's relentless trying to earn hand-check calls and relentless driving to the basket to get to the foul line," Miller said.

We've all seen basketball players who are strong on offense but no-shows on defense. That's not how this 5-11 senior plays the game.

"Defense is huge for us," Prochaska said. "It's the most important part of our game because it gets our offense going."

And that talk isn't lip service, according to Miller.

"We assign her to the best offensive guard every game," he said. "Her length is deceptive -- her wingspan is so long, it's like having a 6-2 guard on you, and that helps her contest shots.

"She also understands scouting reports, and she tries hard to take away strengths and get players to play to their weaknesses.

"You can almost count on her keeping the person she's guarding being held under their scoring average."

Prochaska has stepped up to the challenge several times this season. Against Creighton, she held Sam Schuett -- a first team All-Missouri Valley Conference player last season -- to two points; in Schuett's other seven games she has averaged 10.8 ppg.

In the win over Cal State-Fullerton, Prochaska squared up against Megan Richardson, an All-Big West Conference first team choice a year ago. Prochaska shut out Richardson, who has averaged 16.2 ppg in nine other games this season, forcing her to miss all 10 shots she took.

"She could go right and left, she's a good pull-up jump-shooter and she plays hard all the time," Prochaska said of Richardson. "She also can hit the 3-pointers.

"The biggest thing was matching her energy. I had to be ready to move, to slide with her."

Prochaska also cleans up those missed shots, averaging a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game.

But perhaps the best measure of Prochaska's all-around ability came in the Falcons' game against nationally ranked Vanderbilt. In that contest the senior netted 31 points and added five rebounds and six assists to lead BG to a 79-68 win over the Commodores.

"She rose to the moment and made all of the big plays," Miller said. "She gives our team a calming influence."

She also took control of the game at its critical juncture. Creighton cut a Falcon lead to 51-48 with 14:31 left, but Prochaska made a 3-pointer, three foul shots, then eight of the next 10 points as Bowling Green rebuilt its advantage to 17 points.

"It really wasn't by design," she said of her scoring outburst. "I just got some open shots in that period of the game. [Coach Miller] told me to keep stepping up and taking shots that were open."

Miller wasn't surprised by Prochaska's performance on that big stage.

"That's the kind of night she's capable of having every night," Miller said. "And she was really quiet for stretches of that game. It was a quiet 31 points, if there is such a thing."

This wasn't the first time Prochaska came up big in a big game. She scored 29 in the Falcons' win over Toledo in last year's MAC championship game, and she finished with 24 in a WNIT game against Michigan State as a freshman.

"She's our go-to player, and we're going to put the ball in her hands in crucial situations," Miller said. "She doesn't shy away from the moment -- she continues to play hard.

"We just count on her production every night. She's a once-in-a-lifetime player, and we're fortunate to have her."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481



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