BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team hung with South Dakota for a half Monday. Well, actually for 30 minutes.
But the Coyotes return three starters and 11 lettermen from a team that last season won the Summit League regular-season title and played in the NIT.
And the Falcons, who feature three sophomores and six freshmen on the 14-man roster, had to learn some hard lessons in the last 10 minutes of the second half in an 88-79 loss at the Stroh Center.
“I think we have a lot of talent on our team, but we’re still young – and we’re going to a lot of careless mistakes,” BG coach Michael Huger said. “We’ll make mistakes that make you say, ‘How could you do that?’
“Then you realize that they’re freshmen, and they’re still learning.”
Sophomore Dylan Frye scored 23 points to lead the Falcons (1-1), who also got a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds from freshman Derek Koch while sophomore Rodrick Caldwell had 10 points.
Junior Matt Mooney scored 26 points, 22 of those in the second half, to lead the Coyotes (2-0). Junior Tyler Hagedorn had 15 points while senior Carlton Hurst added 14.
Bowling Green put together a solid but not spectacular first half, leading by as many as seven points and never allowing South Dakota to hold a lead as the Falcons nursed a 35-34 lead into the break.
The Falcons’ defense on Mooney was good in that half as he made just 2-of-12 shots from the floor, missed both 3-pointers he tried, and had just four points.
“In the first half we did a great job of containing his drives,” Huger said of Mooney. “I didn’t think we did a great job overall [on defense], because they drove us and got us into foul trouble.
“In the second half they kept driving – but they made 3’s.”
Bowling Green never led by more than five points in the early going of the second period, but it did stay on top until South Dakota started stringing baskets together – and the Falcons could not keep up.
The Coyotes scored on five straight possessions – getting either a 3-pointer or a three-point play on four of them – to turn a 53-51 BG lead into a 65-59 South Dakota advantage.
“They started attacking even more than in the first half, and they played harder than they did in the first half,” Koch said. “Their big man [Hagedorn] started stepping out and making 3’s, and that made it harder for us to help on the ball screens and then get back to him.
“When we stopped helping on the ball screens, they got to the basket even better than they did in the first half.”
South Dakota turned the ball over on a possession, but Mooney took over and scored on three of his team’s next four to extend the lead to 72-61 with 5:13 left in the game.
“When you’re a championship team, you’ve been in this type of situation before,” Huger said. “They had been there before, and they knew Mooney was the guy.
“We’re still trying to figure out who that guy is, the guy who takes the big shot at the end of the game.”
Pressure defense by the Falcons in final few minutes produced some chances as BG cut the Coyotes lead to four before missing its last five shots from the floor.
Koch said the lesson the Falcons learned from facing the Coyotes was that the BG defense needs to improve.
“We can’t be a good team if we give up 80-some points,” he said. “If we get our defense, that gets our offense up [and running], and that’s when we’re at our best.”
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