BOWLING GREEN — Last season the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team beat Madonna by 50 points.
This year a combination of roster changes, overconfidence, and injuries cut the deficit between the two teams — considerably.
Saturday the Falcons struggled to beat the NAIA school from Livonia, Mich. BG never led by more than 14 points before claiming a 68-57 win at the Stroh Center.
“Mentally we weren’t as prepared as we needed to be,” Danielle Havel admitted. “Coach [Jennifer Roos] felt that way before the game started, and we came out flat. …
“We got people lit [in the locker room at halftime], and we got going in the second half.”
Anthony Wayne product Allison Papenfuss agreed. “Coach Roos lectured us all week on how good Madonna was. We did the, ‘Oh, that’s coach.’ We could be playing the JV team from Anthony Wayne, and they would be the best team in the world.
“And that hurt us.”
BG had four players finish in double figures, with Havel posting a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Papenfuss tied her career high with 13 points in her first career start, while Bailey Cairnduff had 12 and Chrissy Steffen had 11.
Rachel Melcher came off the bench to score 17 for Madonna, while Kaylee McGrath had 16 and Shantelle Herring 12.
The Falcons were missing four players, as Alexis Rogers and Jasmine Matthews — two starters last season — did not play because of injuries, which also sidelined Deborah Hoekstra and Simone Eli.
Roos would not discuss the injuries to the four players except to say they will be “back shortly.”
“We’re hurting,” Papenfuss said. “There aren’t as many of us, numbers-wise, and the hard part is we have some freshmen who are learning their roles, and we’re asking them to pick up a completely different role.
“Sometimes you get things you’ve never expected. With all the injuries, we’re getting things we never expected.”
Between the injuries and overconfidence, BG saw an early 15-5 lead erased by a 15-2 run by the Crusaders. Madonna led 29-27 with 3 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half before Papenfuss scored four of BG’s five points to give it a 31-29 lead at the break.
Madonna’s Kristie Porada hit a 3-pointer to start the second half, but Bowling Green responded with an 11-2 run. The Falcons led by as many as 14 in the second half but never were able to shake the Crusaders, much to Roos’ chagrin.
“I asked the trainer for some Advil, I asked her for a cough drop, and I asked her to fill up my water bottle a couple of times,” Roos said. “But I had fun.
“It is a grueling profession when you want perfection — and this is not a game of perfection. This is a game where you have errors. We will build upon this game.”
Havel said the narrow victory in what was supposed to be a blowout could turn into a wake-up call for the Falcons, who are expected to contend for the Mid-American Conference’s East Divison title.
“I remember two years ago when we lost at Evansville with that stacked team, and that was a wake-up call,” Havel said. “If this wasn’t one, then we need something else to get us going. But I think it was.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.