BOWLING GREEN — For the second game in a row, the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team struggled with turnovers.
But unlike the Falcons’ 34-turnover meltdown in a loss to Central Michigan, BG’s 26 turnovers in its first-round Women’s National Invitation Tournament game against SMU didn’t prove costly.
In fact, Bowling Green was able to overcome those turnovers to post a 76-70 win over the Mustangs on Thursday at the Stroh Center.
“We faced a lot of pressure in practice to prepare for their pressure,” said BG’s Alexis Rogers. “We still had a handful of turnovers.
“But unlike the Central game, we kept fighting. We came back. We never gave up.”
BG’s 26 total turnovers was the team’s second-highest total this season, but the miscues weren’t as costly as they were in the loss to the Chippewas in the third round of the Mid-American Conference tournament.
“I felt it was more of a confidence issue with our team,” Falcons coach Jennifer Roos said. “Central Michigan ate us up with their pressure, and it turned into a game of hot potato — ‘I don’t want it, you take it.’
“The pressure was different from SMU than it was against CMU. SMU makes its money by face-guarding you and denying the wings, so we had to initiate offense more with dribble entry or making a pass to a post player. But I thought we took care of the ball a lot better against their pressure, even though we had a lot of turnovers. But the turnovers in the Central Michigan game led to 39 points; the turnovers in this game led to 24.”
Jillian Halfhill had 23 points to lead Bowling Green, which moved to 23-10. Rogers finished with 16, while Miriam Justinger and Jill Stein each added 10.
Alisha Filmore scored 22 points to lead SMU (21-10), while Akil Simpson and Keena Mays each had 18.
The first half was all about runs, as BG jumped out to a 10-3 lead, only to see the Mustangs counter with 13 straight points to lead 16-10 with 11 minutes left. But the Falcons scored the next 19 points, holding SMU scoreless for almost eight minutes, and led 33-20 at the half.
The Mustangs used a 13-4 run in the first five minutes of the second half to slice the deficit to two, and a layup by Destynee Hives-McCray with 5:31 to play tied the game at 57.
“When they tied it up, none of us were worried,” said Halfhill, who scored 17 points in the second half. “We knew we had to execute on the offensive end.
“We had a lull where we weren’t executing [on offense] and we weren’t playing well on defense — we got confused on some match-ups. But we brought it into a huddle and said, ‘OK, let’s go. We’ve got this.’ And we got back into the lead.”
Chrissy Steffen’s layup at 5:17 gave BG the lead for good, and Rogers scored a pair of “and-one” baskets around the three-minute mark that gave the Falcons a nine-point cushion. Bowling Green then made seven of its last eight free throws to secure the win.
The Falcons now advance to the second-round of the WNIT, but will have little time to prepare before hosting Duquesne at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Stroh Center.
NOTES: Justinger took a hard foul with 3:30 to play in the game and needed help leaving the court. The Northview graduate was taken to the locker room and eventually returned to the bench but did not return to the game. … The victory was BG’s first postseason win since the Falcons beat Syracuse in the second round of the 2009 WNIT. … The victory was the first postseason victory for the Falcons’ current senior class.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org,419-724-6481 or onTwitter @jwagnerblade.