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BOWLING GREEN — Basketball games usually aren’t decided by one play, and the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team’s 57-54 loss to Miami at the Stroh Center Thursday was no exception.
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But if there ever was an exception, one play — one odd, unusually, unexpected play — certainly was the cause of the Falcons’ demise Thursday.
“I don’t think one play ever makes a game,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “But one play [in this game] will stand out more than any missed shot in the first half.”
The Falcons were trailing 56-54 as the RedHawks’ Kirstin Olowinski went to the line after missing a free-throw attempt. There were 6.1 seconds on the clock, and Miami, without a single player in the lane, was conceding the rebound if Olowinski missed.
Olowinski missed — and teammate Hannah Robertson swooped in for the rebound.
“To be honest, I felt Kirsten Olowinski was going to make the shot, and I was just going to make sure they didn’t inbound the ball by rolling it in,” Robertson said. “When it came off, I just saw the ball and reacted."
Robertson was fouled with 3.6 seconds left, made 1-of-2 free throws, and BG saw a desperation 3-point attempt from just past half court miss the mark at the final buzzer. As a result, the Falcons lost more than a share of the Mid-American Conference’s East Division lead and a seven-game winning streak against Miami.
“That’s heartbreaking,” BG’s Alexis Rogers said of that deflating rebound. “You don’t see it happen very often. But when it happens, gosh, it hurts.”
Rogers finished with 19 points and nine rebounds to lead the Falcons, who fell to 12-6 overall and 3-2 in the MAC.
Courtney Osborn scored 14 points to lead Miami (12-6, 4-1), which also got 13 from Erica Almady and 11 from Robertson.
The game was full of highs and lows for both teams as Bowling Green jumped out to an early 11-2 lead as the RedHawks missed all but one of their first 11 shots.
“I thought they were good shots that didn’t fall,” Miami coach Maria Fantanarosa said. “I don’t think we were too high or too down — the shots just didn’t go in.
“I could hear our players say to one another, ‘We’re all right. We’re fine.’ And we just kept playing through it.”
But Bowling Green went cold as the RedHawks used a 15-2 run to lead 17-13 at 6:44, then led by as many as eight points before taking a 26-21 lead into halftime. The Falcons problem was its shooting; after a 4-of-10 start from the field in the first six minutes, BG made just 3-of-15 the rest of the half.
“Not being able to score in the first half — that was a struggle,” Roos said. “I was disappointed in our bench in the first half. They were 0-for-4 with five turnovers and three fouls, and we had been getting good bench production. …”
“And I was disappointed with our production from the [3-point] arc. We were 3-for-18, and we’re better than that.”
BG’s bench, which had outscored the team’s first four MAC opponents 114-24, was scoreless in the first half and finished the game with just nine points.
The Falcons trailed 34-23 with 14:41 left when freshman Bailey Cairnduff provided an offensive spark, contributing five quick points and an assist as BG cut the deficit to 36-34 with 11:27 on the clock.
“[Miami was] changing their defensive assignments, so we condensed our playbook to just a few plays,” Roos said. “[Cairnduff] was able to score off ball screens — her defender would go under [the screen], and she rewarded herself by making a couple of open shots.”
But while Bowling Green was able to tie the game at 47 with 4:10 left, the Falcons never were able to make the shot that gave them the lead. BG made just 37 percent of its shots from the floor in the game, including just 3-of-18 3-pointers (16.7 percent).
“You feel so bad, you think, ‘I have to stop shooting,’ but you can’t because the next one will go in,” Rogers said. “It’s frustrating when they go in and go out.
“It was frustrating to see Chrissy Steffen shoot three 3’s that go in and come out. We were on the bench cheering — and they come back out. That breaks your heart — and kills your backbone.”
But the final blow came thanks to several huge offensive rebounds by the RedHawks. The first came with 3:52 left when Olowinski corralled a Miami miss and Osborn made a 3-pointer that gave her team the lead.
Then twice in the final 42 seconds Olowinski grabbed offensive rebounds that kept the Falcons from getting possession. The last big rebound came when Olowinski, whose game-high 15 rebounds included seven off the offensive glass, missed the free throw that went to Robertson.
“I thought we spent a lot of energy coming back that double-digit deficit, and we weren’t quite able to turn the corner,” Roos said. “But we had a chance at the end – if we were able to secure a rebound at the end.
“Even though we outrebounded them as a team, they came up with the two or three rebounds of the night.
“It made me want to work on rebounding [immediately after the game] instead of waiting for [today’s] practice.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.