The Falcons' Jennifer Uhl battles LaQuananisha Adams for the ball. The Yellow Jackets frustrated and pressured Bowling Green all day.
But it turned out that a costly bit of déjà vu crept into the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team's 69-58 loss to Georgia Tech in its NCAA tournament game at St. John Arena on Saturday.
The Falcons struggled in the first three minutes of the second half against the Yellow Jackets, mirroring the troubles BG had in opening moments of the second half in last year's NCAA tournament loss to Michigan State.
"The last two minutes of halftime was all about the first four minutes [of the second half], and that our experience from last year should help us get over the hump," Bowling Green coach Curt Miller said. "And we said, ‘If we could win the first four minutes, or come out with a strong first four minutes, we were going to adopt all those Ohio State fans'
"Within three seconds, we turned the ball over. And when you talk about something and how key it is, and when it goes wrong, you can see shoulders drop."
That turnover was the first of three BG made in the first three minutes as the Yellow Jackets went on a 10-2 run the Falcons could never overcome. As a result, fifth-seeded Georgia Tech, which was ranked 23rd in the final Division I poll of the year, improved to 24-10 and will play Ohio State Monday in the second round of the tournament.
Click here to see a BGSU-Georgia Tech photo gallery.
The Buckeyes beat Central Florida 80-69 in Saturday's second game.
Meanwhile the 12th-seeded Falcons, who were done in by a season-high 25 turnovers and a season-low two 3-pointers, finished the season at 28-5.
Senior Lauren Prochaska capped a stellar career at Bowling Green with a team-high 19 points, 15 of which came in the first half. Sophomore Chrissy Steffen added 16 while both grabbed a team-high five rebounds.
Sasha Goodlett had 19 points to lead Georgia Tech. Alex Montgomery posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Tyaunna Marshall came off the bench to score 12.
The Falcons stayed close to Georgia Tech in the first half, forcing eight ties and neither team led by more than five points. Danielle Havel scored four points in the final 28 seconds of the half to shave the Yellow Jackets' lead to 33-32 at the break.
Instead of gaining momentum in the second half, Bowling Green wilted. One problem was that the Falcons committed 14 second-half turnovers in the face of Georgia Tech's relentless pressure.
From left, Tracy Pontius, Jennifer Uhl, Maggie Hennegan, and Kelly Zuercher watch the final seconds of the game.
"That's when we started throwing turnovers, and they would get easy baskets. We just can't start the half like that."
Montgomery said the success of Georgia Tech's pressure fueled her team's second-half performance.
"It seemed like they were scared," she said of the Falcons. "We knew that we had to keep it coming, keep it coming, keep the other traps, just be very aggressive.
"I seen it in their eyes."
The other problem the Falcons had offensively was they weren't able to take, much less make, 3-point shots. BG didn't make its first 3-pointer until just 6:38 was left in the game, and its six 3-point attempts was just half of the Falcons' previous season low.
"They weren't leaving us at all," Prochaska said. "I think that was a big key for them, not to let us get 3-point shots. They stayed on us at the arc and forced us to drive and make tough shots."
Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said that was the plan — with a twist, caused by the Falcons' 50-percent shooting from the field in the first half that allowed them to stay close.
"We said we were not going to come off of [Prochaska or Pontius], but for everyone else we were going to help and rotate," Joseph said. "We started that at the beginning of the second half, and I felt it really helped our defense."
It did, as Bowling Green never really was able to challenge the Yellow Jackets. BG came no closer than five points after Georgia Tech's early run and fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half.
Miller said the disappointing finish to the season didn't dim what the team has accomplished this year — and what the team's six seniors have accomplished in their collective careers.
"They have just been the backbone of our success over our last four championships," Miller said of the seniors. "They have never backed down from a fight. They're amazing people off the floor.
"And we have proved that we can play with anyone in the country."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.