MT. PLEASANT, Mich. — The Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team came close Saturday to knocking off Central Michigan.
A gaggle of turnovers and a flock of missed free throws in the final three minutes turned an 11-point Falcon lead into an 82-79 overtime loss to the Mid-American Conference’s preseason favorite at McGuirk Arena.
“There was a point where I looked at the team and said, ‘C’mon, it’s OK, we’ve got it,’” said senior Alexis Rogers, who finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. “But you see it slipping away.”
You might think the Falcons were hanging their heads after their first MAC loss, a hard-to-digest setback that snapped a five-game winning streak.
You would be wrong.
“We played in front of 2,000 people at a tough arena, against a team that is picked to win the West Division and win the MAC tournament,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “It may surprise a lot of people, but I’m calm.
“I’m proud of how hard our team played, and we played smart for the majority of the game.”
Jillian Halfhill backed Rogers with 18 points, while Erica Donovan had 16 for the Falcons (14-3, 4-1 MAC).
Jessica Green scored 23 points to lead five in double figures for Central Michigan (9-8, 5-0). Da’Jourie Turner had 14, Crystal Bradford 13, Taylor Johnson 12, and Niki DiGuilio 11 for the Chippewas.
A pair of Rogers free throws with 3:01 left in regulation gave the Falcons a 69-58 lead. BG turned the ball over on its next five possessions, allowing CMU to cut the deficit to 69-66 with 1:50 left.
“Once we got the ball inbounds, we made some passes that were ill-advised,” Roos said. “And we would pick the ball up and get trapped, and we were forced to use some timeouts.
“We did create some fouls at the offensive end, and we missed some free throws at the end of regulation.”
BG had made 14-of-15 free throws in the game’s first 37 minutes, but connected on just one of its last seven.
“You do have the distraction of the fans down there,” said Rogers, noting that CMU’s football team was behind the BG basket. “Once you get to overtime, you already feel pressure.
“I think the pressure of the fans down there did influence the shots a little bit.”
Rogers made the second of two free throws with 43.6 seconds left to give the Falcons a 70-68 lead, but Green’s offense rebound and basket with 28.4 seconds tied the game and forced overtime.
In the extra period CMU scored the first five points, but the Falcons got a 3-pointer from Halfhill and a basket by Jill Stein to make it 75-75 with 2:38 left.
The two teams traded baskets on their next possessions, but from that point BG committed two more turnovers and made just one of its last three shots. Meanwhile Central Michigan, which had made just 10-of 21 free throws to that point, connected on 5 of 6 to become the last unbeaten team in MAC play.
It was a disappointing ending to a contest that saw the Falcons limit the scoring with solid play on both ends of the court.
“We wanted to control tempo [on offense],” Roos said. “I really wanted [my point guards] to be patient at the offensive end, and we got a lot of scores late in the shot clock.
“Any time you can work the ball offensively and reduce the number of possessions for your opponent, that’s a positive.”
BG scored the final seven points of the first half to lead 32-24, then held off several second-half charges by the Chips to forge that late 11-point lead.
Instead of a signature road win over a MAC heavyweight, the Falcons were forced to consider the positives from a difficult loss.
“This [game] was a lesson learned, but every game is a lesson learned,” Rogers said. “We might learn more from this game than from another game.”
NOTES: Not only did Bradford have a double-double in points (13) and rebounds (15), she also finished with eight steals, seven blocked shots, and five assists. … Rogers’ double-double was her fifth this season and 20th of her career.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.