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Published: Friday, 3/9/2012

BG's Miller likes Slagle's fire

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jessica Slagle Jessica Slagle
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CLEVELAND -- When Bowling Green State University women's basketball coach Curt Miller watches Jessica Slagle play, he sees something unusual.

He sees a mirror.

"She will be so mad I've said this to the media, but Jess Slagle is Curt Miller," the Falcons' coach said. "We are so much alike.

"I figured it out about half-way through her sophomore year, and I told her, 'You are just like me.' We're passionate, intense, moody -- we're so much alike."

While BG's senior point guard may not have been happy with the comparison, she realizes the truth in Miller's statement.

"Honestly, it's an honor to be compared to him like that," Slagle admitted. "He has such a great mind for the game, and after four years I've come to realize that. Someday I hope to coach, and if I can have half the success he has had, I'll be doing pretty well for myself."

Coaching is in the future, not the present, for Slagle, who will lead the Falcons into Friday's Mid-American Conference tournament semifinal against Central Michigan, which beat Miami 78-64 in a quarterfinal game Thursday. Tipoff at Quicken Loans Arena is set for noon.

The rise of both the Falcons, who enter the game with a 24-5 overall record after having won the MAC's regular-season title with a 14-2 mark, and of Slagle this season has been intertwined.

BG came into the year with high expectations despite graduating a six-player senior class that last season led the Falcons to a 28-5 record and an NCAA tournament berth. Much of the pressure fell to Slagle, a senior and captain on a team that had five freshman and four sophomores.

That could have been a burden for a player who had never started before this season and who averaged a little more than 13 minutes per game in her career.

"I have been so humbled over the past three years, and I don't regret a single minute of it," Slagle said. "A lot of people may say, 'I didn't get what I deserve,' but I don't see it that way. I got an opportunity to play behind one of the best senior classes in league history, and to be able to sit back and learn from those players was a blessing in disguise.

"And the way this year has panned out, not just for me but for our teams, well, I couldn't ask for anything more."

Slagle certainly took advantage of the opportunity, nearly matching her career totals, averaging 11.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per contest.

What's more, Slagle handled the increase in minutes while enduring a switch from her natural position of shooting guard to point guard, an especially demanding position in Miller's offensive system.

"It's funny, because the day in practice where they switched me to point guard, I looked at them as if to say, 'What are you doing?' " Slagle said. "They told me not to worry, that it was temporary and they were just trying some things, moving some people around.

"Lo and behold, I'm still here."

Miller said he likes Slagle's "attack" mentality at the point.

"The thing we've had to curtail is her high-risk, high-reward [style]," he said. "She gambles with some passes.

"Tracy [Pontius] was very steady with the ball and very rarely gambled with the ball. Kate Achter very rarely threw fancy passes or tried to squeeze things in.

"Jess wants to gamble at times. She wants to be Bret Favre and go for the home run. She has had to pick and choose her battles, and the turnovers could pile up if she did that all the time."

Miller admits there are times where he'd like to take some of the "Curt Miller" out of Slagle.

"When you have a emotional, fiery, competitive player like Jess Slagle is, at times when things are struggling she'll almost try too hard," Miller said. "That's how we're both wired. We're 'fixers,' If it's not going to work, we try harder.

"And there are times I want her to [work] smarter, not just harder. She starts over trying and spins out of control."

Miller said her fine play and her leadership are two of the reasons Slagle was deserving of the All-MAC second team honors she received earlier this week.

"She has been an unbelievable leader this year," he said of Slagle. "What she'll never get credit for is her leadership behind the scenes with a young team, pushing them and challenging them to do some of the things that we have done."

NOTE: Freshman forward Shanique Ogle will not play for the Falcons again this season. Ogle suffered a torn meniscus that forced her to miss several games. Doctors cleared her to play in the contest at Kent State, but a reoccurrence of pain has led BG to keep her off the court for the rest of the season.

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



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