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Rockets, Falcons set to renew their rivalry

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BG’s Anthony Henderson, center, steals the ball from UT’s Rian Pearson during their game last season at Savage Arena.

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Tod Kowalczyk tossed and turned in the nights following University of Toledo’s overtime loss Saturday at Ohio.

“Thinking about the missed opportunities,” the coach said.

Louis Orr might also be struggling to turn off his brain of late, wondering why short-handed Bowling Green State University is beating the Mid-American Conference’s top teams and losing to almost everyone else.

Forecasting today’s rivalry game at Savage Arena is an exercise in futility, with recent outcomes pointing to a fuzzy conclusion.

Toledo’s two MAC losses — at Western Michigan and at Ohio — came at places where BG left a winner. The Falcons have balanced those impressive victories with confounding home losses, like to Northern Illinois and Miami, both of whom Toledo beat decisively.

“They get up for the top teams in the MAC,” Rockets point guard Julius Brown said. “We’ll get their best shot.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., and coaching staffs on both sides will wear bow ties to support cancer care for the fourth-annual Tie One On initiative.

This is the first of two regular season meetings between the rivals, with BG hosting UT on Feb. 20. That game starts at 9 p.m., so neither coach should expect to get a good night’s sleep.

Today’s matchup is a contrast in styles, with Toledo and its top-ranked MAC offense (83.5 points) matching whits with a BG team allowing a league-low 63.3 points. The Falcons (10-11, 4-4) have surrendered no more than 70 points in MAC play. Toledo (18-3, 6-2) has fallen short of scoring 70 just once.

“You have to mentally and physically be ready to play tough, hard-nosed, grind-it-out basketball,” Orr said. “For us, defending, rebounding, and taking care of the ball are three big keys.”

With a win, Orr will notch his 100th as BG’s coach and the 200th in his coaching career. His Falcon teams are 5-2 against Toledo, falling last year 75-62 at Savage Arena in the only meeting of the season.

BG is coming off an impressive home win, using a late surge Sunday afternoon at the free-throw line to knock off East contending Buffalo, 74-68. Sophomore forward Spencer Parker poured in 23 points, his career-high, and Richaun Holmes — whom Kowalczyk called “clearly an all-MAC player” — blocked five shots with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“They’re a very talented team,” Kowalczyk said. “They’re playing well right now. They may be the biggest and most athletic team in our league.”

Kowalczyk called Monday’s practice — the first since Saturday’s 95-90 overtime setback in Athens — “unbelievably competitive.” Straying from a season-long trend, Kowalczyk’s team faltered in crunch time, turning the ball over twice at the end of regulation, then blowing a couple of overtime defensive assignments.

“We talked about how we gave away an opportunity and we need to learn from it and get better,” he said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.

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