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Young BGSU men's team ready to start league slate

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Bowling Green State University guard Justin Turner (10) drives past Lourdes College forward McRay White. Turner ranks among the Mid-American Conference scoring leaders at 16.8 points per game.

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BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team finished its nonconference schedule with a 9-4 record, which includes a 7-4 mark against Division I schools.

Many will take that record with a grain of salt: The Division I portion of the Falcons’ schedule statistically is one of the weaker ledgers in the country, and none of those victories has come against an opponent with an RPI ranking better than No. 207 (Florida Gulf Coast).

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It also is worth noting the Falcons were 9-4 in Michael Huger’s first season as head coach, but finished 2015-16 at 16-18 overall, including a 5-13 mark in Mid-American Conference play.

Then again, this year’s schedule was tailored for a young team that includes only one senior as well as three sophomores and six freshmen, meaning almost two-thirds of the roster is filled with underclassmen.

Here are three things we have learned about Bowling Green as the Falcons prepare for their MAC opener Tuesday against Miami.

1. The Falcons’ freshmen are a talented group.

BG made a statement with its overtime road win against Wisconsin-Green Bay just before Christmas. The Falcons bounced back after getting crushed at Old Dominion to beat the Phoenix with a 19-point explosion in the extra period.

“We were able to execute in all facets down the stretch,” Huger said. “We got stops, especially a good stop from Antwon [Lillard] that sent the game into overtime. …

“In overtime, we got some stops that allowed us to get out in transition. Our execution was good — and we didn’t have to call timeouts. We would call a play, and they would execute it. That’s what made that win special.”

The Falcons are getting 41.3 percent of their scoring from freshmen, including 16.8 points per game from redshirt Justin Turner. And 37.7 percent of the team’s rebounding total comes from the freshmen, thanks in part to 6.3 rebounds per game by Derek Koch.

2. The bad news about the Falcons’ freshmen is that they are, well, freshmen.

BG has only four losses this season, but some of those setbacks have been galling. The worst from an offensive statistical standpoint was an 88-46 drubbing at Old Dominion that saw the Falcons make barely 30 percent of their shots from the field.

Close behind was a defensive debacle, a 91-76 home loss to Evansville, a game that saw the Purple Aces shoot 60.7 percent from the field, including a sizzling 12-of-15 (80 percent) on 3-pointers.

Even one of the wins has a bit of a stigma since it took overtime to beat Division II Lake Erie at the Stroh Center.

“We’re young, so we’ll have our ups and downs,” Huger said. “When we’re good, we’re very good. And when we’re bad, we’re very bad.”

Huger said that is part of the maturation process for a young team, something he is trying to accelerate with extensive playing time.

“I still feel like a freshman, but I’m getting more comfortable,” forward Daeqwon Plowden said. “The upperclassmen have been helping us get more comfortable.”

3. While BG’s offense generally has been good, the defense remains a work in progress.

The Falcons lead all MAC schools by scoring 82.3 points per game. One reason for the increase in offense is BG’s improved ability to score in transition after missed shots and turnovers, and another is a 37.7 shooting percentage from 3s, the third-best mark in the league.

But defensively, Bowling Green has had some struggles. The Falcons allow a league-worst 80.5 points per game, and opponents are making 45.2 percent of their field-goal attempts, also the worst mark in the 12-team league.

“We’re starting to get some consistency,” Huger said. “We still can improve, but I like the consistency we’re showing.

“On defense we’re becoming more consistent, and we’re getting better with our rebounding. I want that to carry over into MAC play.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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