BOWLING GREEN — For 30 minutes Tuesday night, the Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team played toe-to-toe with the 20th-ranked team in the country.
Ah, but those last 10 minutes ...
The Falcons struggled to score in those waning moments, going four minutes without a point. The result was a 64-53 loss to 20th-ranked Michigan State at the Stroh Center, where the Falcons were outscored 19-8 in that decisive span.
“We were right there — we played with them,” BG coach Louis Orr said. “But in this kind of game is their kind of game.
“If you slip up, boom! They can go on a run.”
The Falcons got a career-high 16 points from Chauncey Orr, the coach’s son, while Jordon Crawford had 10 points and a game-high seven assists as the Falcons fell to 5-5 in front of a crowd of 4,291 — the second-largest crowd for a men’s game at the Stroh Center.
The Spartans had three players in finish in double figures to win their fifth straight game. Branden Dawson and Gary Harris each had 12, while Brandon Dawson added 10 points and seven boards as MSU improved to 9-2.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team leading by more than five points during 14 minutes that saw four ties and nine lead changes.
A dunk by Harris propelled MSU on a 10-5 run during the last five minutes and gave the Spartans a 34-29 lead at the break.
Bowling Green stayed close because of Chauncey Orr, who made 4 of 4 shots from the field, including both 3-point attempts to score 11 points in the half.
“I thought Chauncey Orr was really good offensively, and it was great to see him play with confidence,” coach Orr said. “He got cramps and had to go out [in the second half], and we missed his offense.”
Chauncey Orr’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 29 seconds left in the second half tied the score at 45-45, but Orr left the game soon after and the Falcons suddenly went ice cold from the field, making just one of their last 11 field-goal attempts.
“Michigan State has proven to be a great second-half team,” A’uston Calhoun said. “They saw the plays we were running, so they tried to pack it on the inside and force us to live or die by the jump shot. And through those 10 minutes you could see we struggled with our shots.”
Meanwhile, the Spartans got a layup from Valentine at the 9:26 mark that started a string of scores on six consecutive possessions that proved to be too much for BG to overcome.
“Our defense wasn’t bad, and our rebounding was good,” coach Orr said. “We did a lot of the things we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to win.
“But it’s tough when you have those periods where you aren’t able to generate any offense.”
Bowling Green nearly outrebounded the taller Spartans, eventually trailing just 38-35, while forcing MSU to turn the ball over 15 times. But those weren’t the things that impressed Michigan State coach Tom Izzo most.
“They played with some passion,” he said of the Falcons. “They were hungry, and you could tell this was a big deal for them.”
Still, Bowling Green lamented an opportunity lost. Calhoun, who finished with nine boards and a team-high five rebounds, said the game eventually could springboard the Falcons to greater heights.
“I thought this was our chance to get back and show [everyone] we could produce a great game, and we fell short of that by 10 minutes,” he said. “But I think if we come back to practice, work on the things we lacked and make sure we decrease our mistakes, I think this will be an impact game.”
NOTES: Chauncey Orr left the game after his 3-pointer at the 10:29 mark because of cramps and was not available for the post-game press conference while receiving treatment. He is expected to return to practice today. ... Calhoun scored the game’s first basket to give him 1,000 career points. He is the 40th player in school history to reach that plateau.
Contact John Wagner: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.