BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University men’s basketball coach Louis Orr made a change in his lineup Saturday.
And that change — removing Jordon Crawford from the Falcons’ starting five — worried Ball State coach Billy Taylor.
“Any time a great player like Crawford isn’t starting, that makes me nervous,” Taylor said. “Usually players like that have a sense of urgency; they have something to prove.”
Taylor’s concern was well-founded as Crawford scored 19 points and added a season-high eight assists to carry the Falcons to a 70-59 win over Ball State in front of 3,128 fans at the Stroh Center.
A’uston Calhoun scored 17 points and Chauncey Orr 10 as BG improved to 8-13 overall and 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference.
Jauwan Scaife finished with 17 points and Jesse Berry 13 for Ball State (8-12, 2-6).
Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said taking Crawford out of the starting lineup after 45 consecutive starts was a coach’s decision.
“He and I talked, and we kind of got on the same page,” Orr said, who may have been unhappy with the senior guard’s play in a loss to Akron on Wednesday. “At the end of the day, we both want the same thing: To see the team be successful.
“Statistically it was one of his best games … He responded the right way.”
Crawford, who came into the game at the 15:33 mark of the first half and finished with 33 minutes — tied for most on the team — said he was “fine” with the decision as long as the Falcons won.
“It’s a coach’s decision, so at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” he said.
The Falcons started the game with great energy, scoring the game’s first seven points and leading by as many as 10 points midway through the half.
“I thought we jumped on them early, and everybody fed off that,” Crawford said. “Luke [Kraus] and Craig [Sealey] brought a lot energy, and everybody fed off that.
“And once we got going, it was hard to stop us.”
Late in the half Ball State cut the deficit to seven, only to see the Falcons score three unanswered baskets in the final 40 seconds. Crawford’s steal of an inbounds pass and layup at the buzzer giving BG a season-high 41 first-half points and a 13-point halftime advantage.
“I thought that was a big, big boost,” Orr said of his team’s first-half finish. “The energy and enthusiasm we got off that I thought was big.”
Bowling Green shot 64.3 percent from the field in the first half, scoring eight of those points off Ball State turnovers and getting 12 points in fast-break situations.
“I thought we did a good job of running, especially when Jordon got into the game,” Orr said. “That’s something he does well. And we finished well.”
In the second half the Cardinals managed to cut BG’s lead to 49-45 with 11:54 to play, but the Falcons responded with a 10-2 run that included three baskets by Calhoun, and Ball State came no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
While Crawford’s 19 points played a big role in the Bowling Green bench outscoring Ball State’s reserves 38-15, he certainly had help. James Erger finished with a career-high nine points; Richaun Holmes recovered from first-half foul trouble to post six points and five rebounds; and Craig Sealey scored four points and played well while tying his season high with 19 minutes.
“I liked their minutes,” Orr said of his reserves. “James is a solid person, and that carries over to the court.
“I think Craig gives us great energy, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Richaun got into foul trouble in the first half, but he came back. … We’ve been trying to get him to take a change, and he got his first, so I compliment him on that.”
Luke Kraus continued his improved play in recent games. While he had just four points, the Findlay native contributed a season-best five assists as well as five steals, a career high for him and most for a Falcon this season.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.