YPSILANTI, Mich. — To avoid a trap, the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team needed a spark.
The Falcons got that spark Sunday from a surprising place: freshman Bailey Cairnduff, who finished with a career-high 18 points to lead BG to a 61-47 road win over Eastern Michigan.
“Her stat line was really impressive, with 18 points and going 6-of-6 from the foul line,” Falcons coach Jennifer Roos said of Cairnduff, who came into the game averaging 3.4 points per game. “But more impressive was the fact that she only had one turnover.
“She has really improved at the offensive end. At the beginning of the year, I felt everyone tended to trap her because she was a freshman. Against the pressure, she did a good job of taking care of the ball. At time she was the most aggressive player on the floor for either team looking for her shot. …
“Without her performance, this could have been a different story.”
Cairnduff has been seeing more minutes for the Falcons in recent games and has been more productive as a result. She scored seven in just 13 minutes against Miami on Thursday and had nine in the two games prior to that.
“I’m a freshman, and practice is a great opportunity, too,” Cairnduff said. “Coach is giving me minutes and opportunities, and all I can do is keep my head up.
“Coach always says a season is full of ebbs and flows. When you’re in a low part, you just need to keep on climbing to get back up to the top again. All you can do is keep your head up and keep fighting.”
Chrissy Steffen and Alexis Rogers finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively, as Bowling Green improved to 13-6 overall and 4-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
Bianca Cage scored 15 points and Natachia Watkins had 14 for Eastern Michigan (4-15, 2-4).
Roos said she was concerned about the focus of her team coming off a home loss to Miami Thursday that knocked the Falcons out of first place in the MAC’s East Division.
“I thought this was a huge ‘trap’ game,” she said. “You knew Eastern Michigan had just beaten Kent State, and they had some momentum coming into a home stretch.
“They were kind of like sharks in the water, and I knew they were going to come after us.”
BG was the aggressor early, scoring the game’s first eight points and leading by as many as 17 before taking a 33-18 halftime lead.
Eastern Michigan used a full-court press and half-court zone all game long, and the Eagles’ defense started forcing BG turnovers in the second half.
That pressure allowed EMU to cut the deficit to 11 points as the Falcons turned the ball over 10 times in the second half and 17 overall.
Bowling Green had just two turnovers in the final eight minutes and never allowed its lead to reach single digits.
“We knew they were going to press us — and pressure us,” Cairnduff said. “Even in the halfcourt, their zone is really up-tempo.
“So we focused on that in practice, [doing things] like ball fakes, and that was the key.”
BG also took advantage of its free throws, making 11-of-12 in the first half and finishing 21-of-27 for the game (77.8 percent).
EMU was 7-of-13 from the foul line.
“That was the difference in the game — Bailey Cairnduff’s spark, and us getting to the foul line,” Roos said. “If we don’t get to the foul line, this game is a different story.
“We must make more [free throws] than our opponents take, and we were plus-eight in that.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.