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Published: Sunday, 2/26/2012

BGSU tops Miami for East crown

1 win from MAC regular-season title

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
BGSU's Danielle Havel (42) is congratulated by Jessica Slagle (14) and Jasmine Matthews, right, after scoring and drawing a foul. BGSU's Danielle Havel (42) is congratulated by Jessica Slagle (14) and Jasmine Matthews, right, after scoring and drawing a foul.
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BOWLING GREEN -- The Bowling Green State University women's basketball team used its loss Wednesday at Ohio as the impetus for a big victory Saturday.

The Falcons reached one goal, and moved one step closer to a second, with a 64-55 win over Miami at the Stroh Center.

BG improved to 23-5 overall and clinched the Mid-American Conference's East Division title with a 13-2 mark.

PHOTO GALLERY: Women's basketball: BGSU vs. Miami

The Falcons also moved one step closer to earning the MAC regular-season crown and the top spot in the conference tournament which means an automatic bye into the semifinals.

BG had won six straight regular-season titles until that streak was stopped last year by Toledo.

The difference between the Falcons' four-point loss at Ohio and Saturday's nine-point victory was the team's intensity levels.

"The intensity [Saturday] was high, and that was neat because [the intensity] wasn't there for OU," said BG senior Jessica Slagle, who finished with 14 points. "You could feel it -- it's a demeanor, and you can feel it even during warm-ups.

"I can't take credit for the intensity because it was Senior Day. I know I was just pumped up to play Miami."

Chrissy Steffen matched Slagle with 14 points while Danielle Havel posted 11.

Miami was led by Courtney Osborn, who had 21 points, while Rachael Hencke had 13. Kirsten Olowinski posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds for the RedHawks (20-8, 10-5 MAC).

The Falcons took command of the game early, scoring the game's first five points and rolling to a 9-2 lead. Miami came no closer than four points in the first half for two reasons: The BG defense forced the RedHawks to work for their points, and the offense got to the foul line -- and made its shots.

Offensively the Falcons scored 10 points in the paint in the first half and made 9-of-11 free throws, helping them build a 26-18 halftime advantage.

"I wanted us to play with more of a swagger offensively," BG coach Curt Miller said. "I think we missed some shots we are capable of making, but I thought we were more determined.

"And I thought our defense was terrific all night. I thought we made them work nearly every possession just to get hard baskets."

Defensively the Falcons forced Miami to turn the ball over nine times in the first half and shoot just 30.4 percent from the field. Osborn, one of the league's leading scorers, had just two first-half points, while Maggie Boyer, who averages more than 11 points per game, was scoreless in the half.

Since BG limited that pair to just 17 points in the first meeting Jan. 19 at Miami, Miller said his team didn't change anything for the rematch.

"We thought Jessica did a great job on [Osborn] in the first game," Miller said. "We think Jessica is better defensively against a penetrator, and Jasmine [Matthews] is better against a shooter [like Boyer].

"It worked the first time, so we decided to try it again."

In the second half the Falcons held the RedHawks at bay despite struggling offensively, shooting just 30 percent from the floor and making just 1-of-7 3-pointers. Bowling Green overcame those struggles at the foul line, connecting on 25-of-30 free throws (83.3 percent) to finish 34-of-41 from the line (82.9 percent). Those free throws made and attempted were both season highs.

Miami came no closer than seven points in the second half despite getting 19 second-half points from Osborn.

"I don't think she was looking to attack as much in the first half as she was in the second," Slagle said of Osborn. "I think she was looking to score more in the second half."

Bowling Green enters its final regular-season game at Kent State Tuesday with a simple scenario: If the Falcons win, they will be the top seed in the MAC tournament.

No matter that result, Miller said Saturday's win was a good way for his team to bounce back from the disappointment of the Ohio loss.

"I'm not sure we've healed all wounds -- we still have some issues -- but our kids are battling, and I'm proud of them," he said.

NOTES: The Falcons finished the regular season with a 14-1 record in the Stroh Center. That tied the school record for home wins set by the 2008-09 squad and tied by last year's team. Both of those squads also were 14-1. … The Falcons now have won all 11 Senior Day games during Miller's tenure as coach. ... Freshman post player Shanique Ogle tore a meniscus in practice and will not play against this season.



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