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BOWLING GREEN — There were plenty of statistics and plenty of strategy that could explain the Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team’s 70-65 loss to Miami on Saturday.
But boiled to its essence, the Falcons problem was less about X’s and O’s and more about hunger — or, to be more precise, a lack of hunger.
“You have to stay hungry, and you can’t stay satisfied,” BG coach Louis Orr said. “I thought Miami played with more hunger.
“Being home, you want to have fire and emotion to get the crowd into the game. I didn’t see that in us as a team.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game.
Jehvon Clarke didn’t disagree with his coach about the loss at the Stroh Center that snapped a three-game winning streak.
“It was very frustrating, knowing we didn’t come out with the same enthusiasm as we did during the streak,” Clarke said. “We came out flat, and we were content from the last three games.
“We didn’t focus on the game at hand. If you continue to come out content and satisfied, it won’t matter who you play, you can lose at any given moment. We just didn’t come to play.”
Clarke finished with a career-high 22 points to lead the Falcons (9-10, 3-3 Mid-American Conference), while Start High School grad Anthony Henderson finished with 15 before fouling out.
Will Sullivan and Willie Moore each scored 16 points to lead the RedHawks (8-9, 4-2 MAC), while Will Felder had 12 and Quinten Rollins 10.
Bowling Green seemed to come out on fire, jumping to an early 7-2 lead in the first three minutes. The Falcons eventually led by as many as eight in the early going before an 11-3 run by the RedHawks tied the game at 17 with 7:05 left in the half.
Miami shifted to a zone late in the first half that stymied BG, allowing the visitors to finish the half on a 16-5 run and with a 36-28 lead.
“I don’t expect easy,” Orr said. “I think sometimes fans and the public say, ‘You are home and you have won three games in a row.’ They expect easy.
“It doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to grind. And Miami is a good grind team.”
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Early in the second half, 3-pointers by Clarke and Henderson started a Bowling Green run that allowed the Falcons to trim the deficit to 47-45 with 9:30 to play.
But Miami’s Sullivan hit a 3-pointer and was fouled on his team’s next possession, and he made the free throw to begin a 10-2 run for the RedHawks.
Meanwhile, the BG offense scored just two points over the next seven minutes as Miami established a 57-47 advantage.
“They got some easy baskets in transition off turnovers, and they made their free throws,” Orr said. “We missed some shots around the basket we could have made.
“In the past we’ve been able to get stops [on defense]. Even if we weren’t scoring, we were able to get stops. … I thought the grind part of the game, we didn’t do it.”
While Bowling Green hit three 3-pointers in its last three possessions, Miami made 9-of-10 free throws in the last 33 seconds to hold off that charge.
“We still have a lot to win, a lot to play for, and a lot to prove,” Orr said. “In this league, generally the team that does the little things, and plays with a little gut-wrenching hunger and toughness, is going to be the team that will come out on top.
“In this league you have to bounce back, and you have to be resilient. And we will be.”
NOTES: Both coaching staffs were wearing sneakers as part of the annual “Coaches versus Cancer” campaign. … Both staffs also wore lapel pins with a purple ribbon and the words “4 Pete’s Sake” to honor Dan Peters, Akron’s director of basketball operations. Peters was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December and has been on a leave of absence to pursue treatment. … Senior Craig Sealey and freshman Zack Denny were not in uniform for the Falcons because of injuries.Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.