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Published: Wednesday, 2/29/2012

Falcons claim MAC crown

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

KENT, Ohio -- The celebration for the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team began soon after the team returned to the locker room following its 91-48 victory at Kent State Wednesday.

"After the game, the coaches came in with Silly String," said guard Jillian Halfhill, who led the Falcons with 17 points. "Then they gave us [little plastic] medals that say, 'Winner,' and then they gave us rings [that were Ring Pops]."

The celebration was fitting, since the win -- combined with Eastern Michigan's loss at Central Michigan -- gave the Falcons sole possession of their seventh Mid-American Conference regular-season title in the last eight seasons. The victory also clinched the top seed in the MAC tournament for BG, which now advances directly to the semifinals.

"We're really excited to win this title," said Alexis Rogers, who posted her ninth double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. "At the beginning of the season, nobody thought we could do this with the number of people we lost [from last year]."

Danielle Havel and Noelle Yoder each added 10 points for BG (24-5, 14-2 MAC).

Tamzin Barroilhet scored 12 points and Trisha Krewson 10 for Kent State (6-20, 5-11).

What was especially impressive was that the Falcons rolled to an early lead and never gave the Golden Flashes a chance to challenge.

Bowling Green scored 13 straight points in a four-minute span to take a 20-6 lead with 12:49 still to play in the first half. The Falcons used a suffocating first-half defense that forced 15 KSU turnovers and solid 3-point shooting to take a 41-19 halftime lead.

"Our defense was great and set the tone early," BG coach Curt Miller said. "We did a really good job of disrupting them."

Any fears the Falcons would let up in the second half were dispelled when BG scored the first nine points to up its lead to 53-19. Kent State never came closer than 28 points and BG led by as many as 47 before eventually tying its season high in points.

One eye-popping statistic for the Falcons was their effort from behind the 3-point arc. After shooting just 29.1 percent on 3-pointers this season and 21.1 percent in the previous seven contests, BG made a season-high 16 3-pointers while shooting 47.1 percent from behind the arc.

"Our bench can certainly make 3's," said Miller, noting that nine of the 3-pointers were made by BG's reserves. "In close games, the bench doesn't get to fire away -- and those 3's are harder in a close game.

"But Jillian Halfhill sparked us in the first half [with 15 points]. Our starting guards weren't having a good first half [on] offensive, but [Halfhill] sparked us so much we were running plays for her."

By game's end, the Falcons had made a believer of Kent State coach Bob Lindsay.

"BG was in a position they haven't been in the last couple of years, and they played as if the game meant something to them," Lindsay said. "Their defensive pressure was good. Offensively their execution was very good."

Afterwards all that left was to break out the Silly String and Ring Pops to celebrate the school's 13th regular-season title.

"I can't be more pleased," Miller said. "After graduating six seniors, and four senior starters, to be at this point would have been unfathomable at the beginning of the year.

"For us to do with we did, with a young and experienced team, makes me proud of this team's consistency and effort this season."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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