BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team knew it would be a struggle offensively Wednesday night.
The Falcons knew points would not come easily in their Mid-American Conference opener against Eastern Michigan and the Eagles’ difficult zone defense. That’s why a game-long shooting struggle doomed Bowling Green to a 56-51 loss to EMU at the Stroh Center.
“Every possession counts when you play a game like this,” BG coach Louis Orr said. “We didn’t have enough good offensive possessions, and we didn’t capitalize on their mistakes enough.”
PHOTO GALLERY: BGSU vs. Eastern Michigan at the Stroh Center
Richaun Holmes finished with 17 points and seven rebounds to lead the Falcons (6-8), who also got 11 points from Jehvon Clarke and 10 apiece from Spencer Parker and Anthony Henderson.
Mike Talley scored 14 points to lead Eastern Michigan (9-5), while Karrington Ward added 13.
Eastern Michigan’s zone played a role in Bowling Green’s shooting struggles as the Falcons made just 16-of-52 shots from the floor (30.8 percent), including just 3-of-16 3-pointers (18.8 percent).
“They play their zone high — they play their wings up, so it’s almost like they have four guys at the foul line extended,” Orr said. “You have to work behind their zone, and we tried to work inside-out.
“We tried to get points in transition and get second-chance points. But you have to be able to get into the lane and manufacture baskets.”
Combined with a 16-for-28 struggle from the foul line (57.1 percent), the Falcons finished with their third-lowest point total of the season — and their third straight loss.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, as neither team led by more than four points in a period that included four ties.
Ward made the second of two free throws with 24 seconds left in the half to give the Eagles a 24-23 advantage.
“Give them credit for their zone, but most of it is on us for not knocking down shots when we had them,” said Holmes, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half. “When you miss a shot, you can’t hold your head — you have to keep shooting with confidence.
“You have to believe the next shot is going to go in.”
Eastern Michigan used a 9-0 run early in the second half to build a 35-27 lead with 16:15 to play, only to see the Falcons slowly whittle the deficit down and eventually tie the game at 36-36 thanks to a 3-pointer by Henderson at the 12:32 mark.
EMU scored the game’s next seven points and never trailed again. The Eagles eventually led by as many as 11 points and the Falcons never came closer than five in the final minutes.
“We went on a run, and they came back and answered with a run,” Holmes said. “Basketball is a game of runs, and we never recovered.”
BG was especially hamstrung by its free-throw struggles. Both teams entered the contest near the bottom of the MAC in free-throw shooting — EMU was tenth in the 12-team league at 64.8 percent, while the Falcons were next at 63.0 percent.
In the second half the Eagles made 70 percent of their free throws (14-of-20), while BG connected on just 53.3 percent (8-of-15) to sabotage any chance for a comeback.
“I personally take pride in my free-throw shooting, so 7-for-13 just can’t happen,” Holmes said. “We have to keep working on it.
“I personally can’t miss six free throws. And I don’t plan on doing that ever again.”
NOTES: Among those who were in uniform for the contest for BG was Shaun Joplin. The Southview High School grad, who walked on after football season ended, did not play. … Craig Sealey was not in uniform for the Falcons as he recovers from an ankle injury.
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