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BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University men’s basketball coach Louis Orr decided he needed to light a fire under his team at halftime of Wednesday’s game against Western Michigan.
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At the time, Falcons had squandered a seven-point lead in a tie contest. What’s more, BG was getting outrebounded 24-11 — and the Broncos already had 10 offensive boards.
“I’m not a ‘choice’ words guy, but you have to challenge your guys,” Orr said. “We were getting hammered.
"In the first half A’uston [Calhoun] didn’t have a rebound, and he’s our leading rebounder. He’s one of the top rebounders in the league.
“[At halftime] we challenged our guys to do what we needed to do to win. You want to win? You have to man up, you have to rebound. And our guys responded in the second half.”
Bowling Green certainly did respond, and the result was a 70-60 victory in front of 1,579 fans at the Stroh Center.
Calhoun finished with 24 points, Jordon Crawford scored 13, and Chauncey Orr added 11 as the Falcons improved to 9-14 overall and 4-6 in the Mid-American Conference.
PHOTO GALLERY: Falcons down Broncos
Western Michigan (15-8, 7-3) got 14 points from both Austin Richie and Nate Hutcheson along with 13 points and 15 boards by Shayne Whittington.
What were the differences for the Falcons in the second half? One was a strong shooting effort as BG made 63.6 percent of its shots in the period, its second-best shooting half of the season.
“We started hitting jump shots early [in the game], and [after that] I thought we weren’t playing around the basket very strong,” Orr said. “We weren’t attacking the basket.
“In the second half, I thought we attacked more. And we converted their turnovers into transition [baskets].”
Bowling Green made 7-of-15 to start the game, leading 19-12 with 7:41 left in the first half. But the Falcons made just three of their last nine in the period, and Hutcheson made a difficult jumper at the buzzer to tie the game at 30 at the break.
“At halftime we told each other we were playing kind of soft,” Calhoun said. “We needed to grind the half out and create a gap between us and Western.”
BG scored on four of its first five possessions in the second half. And when WMU cut the Falcons’ lead to 42-40 at the 14:18 mark, Bowling Green scored five of the next six times it had the ball to build a 53-41 advantage with 10:30 to play.
Another difference was the Falcons stepped up their defense at that point, forcing the Broncos to commit five turnovers and miss five shots. Orr and Richaun Holmes each had three steals, while Luke Kraus had two.
“It started with Jordon, and I thought Luke did a good job of getting his hands on the ball,” coach Orr said. “It starts with pressure, and sometimes pressure has a cumulative effect.
"Just having guys in your face wears on you, and I think that might have been a little of it.”
When you mix in BG’s 17-14 second-half advantage in rebounding, and the fact that Western Michigan made just 5-of-15 free throws in the period, it added up to an important win as the Falcons now have won three of their last four.
“In the second half, from top to bottom, we knew we had to play tougher on defense to give ourselves a chance,” Calhoun said. “We’re realizing we have a great opportunity to get to Cleveland and win a MAC championship.
“We feel we still have a chance to turn things around. We still have a chance to accomplish all the goals we set [before the season began]. It’s kind of a now-or-never thing.”
NOTES: Craig Sealey suffered an ankle injury early in the second half and did not return. Orr said he hopes to have Sealey back for Saturday’s game at Akron. … The fans who attended Wednesday’s game can use the ticket to claim a free ticket for the Feb. 21 home game against New Orleans.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.