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BOWLING GREEN — The season for the Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team hung on its missed shots. A missed free throw. A bad turnover. A shot that didn’t go in until after the buzzer sounded.
When it was over, Jordon Crawford sat on the Falcons bench, crying, his shirt pulled over his head. Torian Oglesby stomped around the Stroh Center, barely able to contain his frustration.
That symbolized how agonizingly short the Falcons came in the final moments of a 54-53 loss to Central Michigan in their Mid-American Conference tournament first-round game Monday.
BG, the sixth seed, had a number of chances in the final moments to steal a win from the Chippewas. But in the end, it was CMU which advanced to Cleveland for a second-round tournament game against Toledo Wednesday, while the Falcons saw their season end with a 16-15 mark.
“I know for me, as a senior, this is hurtful,” said Dee Brown, who finished with 20 points. “If you lose, you go home.
“I’m pretty hurt right now, because this could be our last game if we don’t go to the postseason. I know all of the fellows in the locker room are hurting, too, because they wanted it as bad as I did.”
Austin McBroom had 20 points and six assists to lead Central Michigan (11-20), while Derek Jackson added 13.
Here’s how the final painful minutes played out, beginning with a 3-pointer by Jackson that gave the Chips a 51-50 lead with 1:47 left.
Brown had a good look at a 3-pointer but missed, and CMU scored to raise its lead to 53-50 with 49.1 seconds to play. BG’s Crawford made two free throws to cut the lead to one, then the Falcons fouled and saw CMU’s Jackson miss the front end of a 1-and-1 — only to watch Central’s Auston Barnes grab the offensive rebound.
Barnes missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and BG rebounded, but A’uston Calhoun was called for an illegal screen near midcourt.
With 8.1 seconds left, the Chippewas’ Andre Coimbra made just 1-of-2 free throws and the Falcons raced down the court. Crawford was fouled with 2.7 seconds left, made the first free throw — then missed the second.
But BG still had life, as the ball bounced out of bounds with exactly one second left. Scott Thomas threw the ball toward the basket to Oglesby, who missed a potential game-winning dunk. Oglesby got a second chance that he put into the basket, but that attempt came after the final horn sounded.
“You almost have to be desperate or urgent [to win] at this time of year,” BG coach Louis Orr said. “You have to compete at a really, really high level to give yourself a chance to win.
“It wasn’t our best game of the year, and we still had a chance to win. But you have to make a play.”
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“When you get a chance to take it to a team, you have to take advantage of it, especially at home,” Orr said. “We didn’t guard the way we needed to, and we didn’t make enough shots.”
The Falcons led 33-24 with 16:17 left in the second half before going stone-cold. After making four of its first seven shots, BG made just 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) the rest of the way.
“We’ve been making shots, especially in the second half of the year, and it has helped us — even when our defense hasn’t been great,” Orr said. “Our shooting helped get them back in the game.
“And defensively, we needed to be better in the second half.”
Defensively the Falcons did a good job on CMU’s Trey Zeigler, who came into the game averaging 16.2 points per game. Zeigler was 0-for-8 in the first half and finished with just three points on 1-for-12 shooting. But in the second half, he drove to the basket and then found open shooters, and Central Michigan made 5-of-6 3-pointers in the period to shoot its way back into the contest.
“Trey couldn’t hit the broad side of a brick with a barn,” said his father, Chippewas coach Ernie Zeigler. “Normally, if he plays that bad offensively, we don’t have a shot.
“But he did other things, especially in the second half, that helped us win.”
One was to find open shooters for 3-pointers. CMU’s Austin Keel and Jackson both made a pair of 3’s in the half, and McBroom added one as the Chippewas tied the game at 36 with 11:25 left.
NOTE: The Falcons wore blue and yellow ribbons on their uniforms to honor three classmates who were killed in an accident on I-75 Friday.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.