Bowling Green State University's Miriam Justinger gets an arm in the face while being defended by UCF's Kiana Morton, left, and Erika Jones.
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BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team handled the full-court pressure from the University of Central Florida in fits and starts Friday.
But in the final five minutes the Falcons didn’t handle it at all, and they suffered a 59-56 loss as a consequence.
Alexis Rogers scored 11 points while Chrissy Steffen added 10 as Bowling Green, which fell to 9-4, saw a six-game winning streak snapped.
Gevenia Carter finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the Knights (6-8).
“This was a difficult match-up for us — every single one of their strengths is our weakness,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “This is a team that has come back from multiple double-digit deficits to win this season.”
The Falcons led 53-43 with 5 minutes, 4 seconds to play after Allison Papenfuss stole a UCF pass and drove the length of the court for a layup.
But from that point BG had two turnovers, then missed nine consecutive shots as the Knights’ full-court pressure squeezed the life out of the Falcons offense.
“Their pressure got to us,” Steffen admitted following the game. “They got a lot of deflections, and they got us to go faster than we wanted to.
“The press would take 15 to 20 seconds [off the shot clock] before we would get into the half court [offense], which made it tough for us to get a good shot.”
UCF was able to apply its press because it started scoring, getting points on five consecutive possessions and eventually tying the score at 53-53 on Meghan Keough’s 3-pointer with 3:15 on the clock.
“When we were able to get a defensive rebound, we had more success [on offense],” Roos. “When we couldn’t get stops and had unforced turnovers, it allowed them to have more second-half possessions that we wanted.
“And when you shoot 32 percent in the second half against someone who shoots 50 percent, it’s not going to go in your favor.”
After the tie, both teams went more than two minutes without a score before Carter hit a 3-pointer off a high screen with 1:02 to play. Two more BG misses, followed by a pair of free throws by Kayli Keough, set the deficit at 58-53 with 28 seconds left.
Bowling Green State University's Allison Papenfuss attempts to save the ball.
Blade/Amy E. Voigt Enlarge
Jillian Halfhills’ 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play trimmed the deficit to two points, and after Kayli Keough split a pair of free throws, Rogers missed a hurried 3-pointer from long range at the final buzzer.
The game featured five ties and six lead changes in the first half, with BG outscoring the Knights 8-4 in the final five minutes to lead 29-23 at the break. The Falcons then used a 13-7 start to the second half to take a 45-30 lead with 11:48 to play.
But Bowling Green tied its season high with 21 turnovers, and that fueled UCF’s comeback.
“They got exactly what they wanted — and they had 23 points off our turnovers,” Roos said. “We knew we would have several [turnovers], but I was hopeful we would be able to stay disciplined in the second half.
“Unfortunately, our unforced turnovers were back-breakers – illegal screens and throwing the ball literally out of bounds, and that was difficult to swallow.”
Steffen admitted that the loss negated the good feelings surrounding the program following its win against nationally ranked Dayton on Sunday.
“Our focus wasn’t there at the end,” she said. “I don’t think our preparation for this game was the same as it was against Dayton.
“We can’t have that. We have to treat every game like a big game. We can’t let that happen again.”
And Roos sounded a warning that this won’t be the last time the Falcons face full-court pressure this season.
“There are a handful of teams in our conference that have the same speed and athleticism,” Roos said. “They will play us in a similar fashion, so this will help us.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.