BOWLING GREEN — When the Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team came home from a four-day junket in Cancun, Mexico, coach Louis Orr had a plan.
The plan was simple: Get off the bus and shoot free throws.
PHOTO GALLERY: BG men defeat W. Kentucky
“I thought [missing free throws] was a big contributor to a loss against Oral Roberts,” Orr said. “We haven’t been good [shooting free throws] all year, and I wanted them to understand how important they are.”
That extra work paid immediate dividends as the Falcons made 10 in a row in a stretch of the second half and made 29-of-42 in the game (69 percent) on the way to a 74-62 win over Western Kentucky at the Stroh Center Monday night.
“Coach Orr has been harping on [free throws],” said Spencer Parker, who finished with 20 points. “We knew the game would come down to free throws at the end. Luckily we made ours, and they didn’t [make theirs].”
Richaun Holmes scored 18 points as he and Parker posted career scoring highs, while Craig Sealey had 13 and Anthony Henderson 12 for Bowling Green (3-4).
T.J. Price finished with 24 points for Western Kentucky (4-3), while Ben Lawson and George Fant each had 11 for the Hilltoppers.
Western Kentucky scored the game’s first nine points in a four-minute span, prompting the Falcons to switch to a three-quarter, court-trapping defense that fell back into a 2-3 zone. The defense caused the Hilltoppers immediate problems, as they made just 8-of-21 shots over the remainder of the first half after connecting on five of their first eight.
That allowed BG to get back into the game as the Falcons went on a 23-5 run over the next nine minutes.
“We kind of feed off that [defense] — it gets us going,” Orr said of the trap and the zone. “I thought we came out a little flat, and we had to get aggressive.
“I thought our guys did a good job with the changing defense, and we went on a run.”
Sealey came off the bench to score 11 points in the first half as Bowling Green led 36-34 at the break.
“Craig was huge for us,” Parker said. “Coming off his surgery, he hasn’t been 100 percent, but he’s stepping it up a lot.
“That lift he gave us coming off the bench [in the first half], that was huge.”
Parker scored seven quick points to start the second half, and BG scored the first 15 points of the period to lead 51-34 with 14:03 to play.
“I just wanted to come in and be aggressive,” Parker said. “I knew we needed a lift, and I didn’t want us to get off to a slow start.”
By the 10:41 mark of the second half, each team had committed seven fouls, putting a premium on free-throw shooting. And the Falcons did a much better job of making their free throws as Holmes was 7-for-8 in the second half and Parker was 7-for-9, while Western Kentucky made just 6-of-16.
“When you get to the bonus, you have to keep attacking,” Orr said. “I thought we did a good job of getting the ball to Spencer, and he did a good job of attacking.
“And give Richaun Holmes credit for hitting free throws — and hitting a big 3-pointer — for us.”
NOTES: Holmes also finished with a season-high five blocked shots, and BG finished with a season-high 10 blocks. … Junior forward Chauncey Orr continues to have swelling on his injured right knee, and the injury will be re-evaluated this week. Orr has not played since the Falcons’ season opener. … Freshman guard Zack Denny still has not practiced with BG because of an injured knee. … Parker became the first player on the Falcons’ active roster to score 20 points in a game in his college career.