BOWLING GREEN -- After suffering a 27-point loss in its opener at Dayton, the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team had to be concerned with its first-ever game at the Stroh Center Thursday.
The Falcons were hosting a nationally ranked Purdue squad that had won its opener by 30 points, and had a number of starters back from a 21-win team a year ago.
So there were mixed emotions when BG came within seconds of pulling off an upset, as the 16th-ranked Boilermakers scored with just 12.5 seconds left to claim a 54-53 victory.
"I think [the glass] is half-full because we played hard for 40 minutes," Bowling Green coach Curt Miller said. "We played with a passion and energy.
"There is an absolute hurting disappointment -- there's an empty feeling in our guts. That only happens when you care so much, and when you give effort."
Alexis Rogers had 10 points and eight rebounds to lead the Falcons, who fell to 0-2 on the season, while Chrissy Steffen had nine points, and Jasmine Matthews eight. Brittany Rayburn led all scorers with 18 for Purdue (2-0), while Courtney Moses had 13 points as well as six assists, and Alex Guyton came off the bench to score 12 in the second half.
"I was really proud that we fought and competed with a really talented team," Miller said. "I was devastated for [our players], because they weren't rewarded for that effort. As a coach, all you can ask for is great effort.
"I was hoping to celebrate for them, and show them what [effort] can do for a program."
Purdue's winning basket came on an inbounds play where Moses bounced the ball off the back of Rogers, who was playing in the middle of a zone defense and was facing the other way. Moses scooped and scored on a play Miller said was, "A great player making a heady play."
"I didn't quite see her, and she was right behind me," Rogers said. "I couldn't turn around fast enough.
"It was a smart play on her part."
Those were the final points in a see-saw finish that saw five lead changes in the final 4:28. That wouldn't have been possible without a huge second-half rally by the Falcons, who found themselves trailing 40-29 with 12:03 left. Steffen hit a layup that started a 15-2 run by BG, a rally that included six points by Matthews, a freshman.
That also marked the second rally that was led by a freshman. The other came late in the first half when, with the Falcons down 14-5, Logan Pastor scored seven straight points to get BG back into the game. Danielle Havel's 3-pointer with 34 seconds left gave the Falcons an 18-16 lead at the break.
"Logan Pastor gave us a great spark -- she kept us above water in the first half when we were really struggling," Miller said. "Jasmine Matthews gave us a big spark in the second half."
Miller said the key to both runs wasn't the offense clicking, but the defense buckling down on the Boilermakers.
"I saw us dig in defensively, and [a run] can only happen with consecutive stops," Miller said. "Then we got out in transition and got a few easy baskets.
"We really, really struggle to get an easy basket this year. We got a few in that stretch and that was why we had that run."
Bowling Green forced the Boilermakers to commit 23 turnovers, including 16 in the first half alone. The Falcons also allowed Purdue to shoot just 45.8 percent from the field, including a frigid 26.3 percent mark in the first half.
But BG couldn't take advantage because it shot just 32.1 percent for the game and turned the ball over 18 times in a sloppy early season contest that was especially frustrating to Miller.
"Our kids played their hearts out," he said. "We played with an intensity that was lacking at times in our season opener at Dayton. They left everything out there on the court.
"We just came up one play short."
NOTES: Purdue's KK Houser scored the first points in a women's basketball game at the Stroh Center, making a free throw at the 18:37 mark of the first half. Houser also had the first field goal, which came with 18:12 to play, and Moses made the first 3-pointer with 9:04 left in the first half. ... Rogers had the first BG basket at the Stroh Center at the 17:23 mark, while Jessica Slagle made the first free throw for the Falcons at 13:20. Havel's 3-pointer at the end of the half was the first 3-pointer. ... The Falcons' 14 steals against Purdue was the most since they had 16 steals in the 2009-10 season opener against Chicago State. Havel had four steals, while Rogers and Slagle had three apiece. ... Last night's crowd was announced at 1,932.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.