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BOWLING GREEN — Miriam Justinger made her first start for the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team Thursday night.
And because the opponent was Kent State — the school she originally planned to join before reconsidering and joining BG out of Northview High School — there could have been a little bit of added drama for the freshman.
“I thought this would be an emotional game for Miriam,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “But she stepped in and competed like I thought she would.”
Actually there was as little drama from Justinger as there was in the game itself as the Falcons dismantled the Golden Flashes 69-33 at the Stroh Center.
“I was a little nervous,” Justinger admitted. “But I just tried to do what coach Roos asked me to do: Play my role and step up as much as I can.”
Justinger finished with nine points, three assists, and three rebounds in her first start at Bowling Green. Deborah Hoekstra and Katrina Salinas each scored 12 points — career highs from both — and Anthony Wayne product Allison Papenfuss added 10 to lead the Falcons to a win in their Mid-American Conference opener.
“Coach Roos talked about first impressions, and we wanted to come out strong and let everyone know we were ready to play,” Justinger said. “As a freshman, you want to let people know you are ready to play.”
The first impression of the game itself wasn’t good as the Golden Flashes scored the first five points. But Justinger stole the ball, drove the length of the floor, and hit a layup at the 17:33 mark to spark a 12-0 Bowling Green run.
Kent State’s Ashley Evans hit a 3-pointer with 9:42 left in the half that made it 19-12 BG, but the Falcons didn’t allow another basket in the period and led 35-14 at the break.
It took more than five minutes for KSU to make a field goal at the start of the second half as Bowling Green pulled away, never leading by fewer than 19 points.
While Justinger moved into the starting lineup to replace the injured Jasmine Matthews, the rest of the Falcon reserves were productive. The BG bench produced 40 points, seven more than the entire Kent State team, and also had 21 rebounds — Jill Stein had nine and Papenfuss eight — to go with five steals as well as seven blocked shots.
“I wanted to reward our bench, and they played extremely well,” Roos said of the extended minutes she gave BG’s reserves. “I thought our starters got a little stagnant a couple of times in the first half, and we got some spark, some fresh legs [from the bench].”
Hoekstra was 4-for-6 on 3-pointers for the game, matching the number of 3-pointers she made in her BG career before Thursday.
“She battled mononucleosis at the start of the year,” Roos said of sophomore. “She is back 100 percent.
“We tried to call her number in a couple of ‘man’ sets, and she stepped up and made the open shot.”
Salinas played extended minutes when starting point guard Jillian Halfhill drew a pair of fouls in the first 70 seconds of the game. Salinas had one assist and just one turnover in 24 minutes.
“She stepped in where she needed to,” Roos said of Salinas. “I think she got a little tired when we played her consecutive minutes, but she took care of the ball, which we needed her to do. …
“And Katrina made some shots for us in the second half.”
Roos did have one nit-pick in the 36-point win, which was the Falcons most lopsided victory this season.
“I thought we got a little block-happy at the end — I want us to just contest shots and block out,” Roos said.
NOTES: With the double-digit scoring by Hoekstra and Salinas, all 11 players who have seen action for the Falcons this season have scored in double figures at least once. … Matthews did not play because of a stress fracture that kept her out of the lineup early in the season. Her status for Sunday’s game against Toledo is undetermined.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.