The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team already was trailing the University of Toledo by 28 points early in the second half Saturday, so picking out one play to criticize might be unfair.
University of Toledo guard Tre'Shaun Fletcher (4) steals the ball from Bowling Green State University guard Matt Fox (24) while Demajeo Wiggins watches. Fletcher found teammate Nate Navigato for an easy 3-pointer in the Falcons loss at Savage Arena Saturday.
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But that one play also might explain the Falcons’ recent tailspin.
BG forced Tre’Shaun Fletcher to miss a tough shot in the lane. All the Falcons had to do was grab the rebound, then take the ball downcourt for a chance to chip into the Rockets’ big lead.
But that is not what happened. Instead, the ball bounced off the hands of Demajeo Wiggins, ping-ponged to Matt Fox — and was grabbed by Fletcher, who whipped the ball to teammate Nate Navigato for a 3-pointer at the top of the key.
“If one person goes after the rebound and secures the rebound, we don’t have that,” BG coach Michael Huger said after his team’s 101-75 loss to its archrival. “We expect someone else to do it.”
Again, it was only three points in a game where the Falcons surrendered triple digits and lost by 26. But it continues a recent string of poor play that saw Central Michigan outscore BG 35-11 in the final 12 minutes in a loss at the Stroh Center, followed by Bowling Green yielding 93 points at Northern Illinois.
It is a defensive backslide that has left Huger dismayed and disappointed.
“It’s frustrating because the guys you are expecting [defense] from aren’t giving it to you,” he said. “Until we can correct that, our young guys will play more.
“Our young guys brought the energy tonight, and that’s why they played more. If we can’t play with energy and effort on every possession, we have no chance.”
What should make the loss at Savage Arena more galling is the Bowling Green offense was not bad. The Falcons averaged 1.07 points per possession, a good number, and turned the ball over just five times.
The Falcons actually got off to a good start defensively, holding an early 11-6 lead in the game’s first five minutes. But when Toledo’s Jaelan Sanford made a jumper at the 12:50 mark, it seemed to ignite the Rockets.
UT scored on 20 of its final 21 first-half possessions, making 18-of-21 field-goal attempts (85.7 percent) — and hitting all five 3-pointers — to outscore Bowling Green 46-17 and take a 54-30 halftime lead.
“They started to make shots, and our defense started to break down,” Huger said. “We talked about how to take away their 3s, and we did the right things early. But then we started to fade, and they started to hit 3s.”
In the second half, Toledo made “only” 62.1 percent of its shots from the floor to finish with a 67.2 field-goal percentage for the game. By scoring a ridiculous 1.44 points per possession, the Rockets reached the century mark, marking the first time since 1998 that Bowling Green allowed more than 100 points in regulation of a Mid-American Conference game.
The margin of defeat was the worst for the Falcons against their rival.
“It’s not that they shot the lights out: We allowed them to shoot the lights out,” Huger said. “We didn’t play hard enough in the first half.
“When we allowed them to get going in the first half, they felt good about themselves and hit more shots.”
With the three straight losses, Bowling Green has slipped to 12-9 on the season and is now 3-5 in MAC play. That league mark puts the Falcons in danger of having to play a first-round MAC tournament contest on the road.
“Every game is important, but when you start losing you have to play harder and get some wins,” Fox said. “We have to string some wins together.
“We have to be desperate for some wins. The most desperate team usually wins. We have to come out and feel like we have to get this win. Otherwise, I don’t know what we can do.”
There is at least one fix, Huger said.
“If this continues, changing the starting lineup is the obvious next step,” Huger said. “Why would you do that? Because we can’t continue to do the same things and expect to win.
“We have to be able to defend. We have to do a better job on the defensive end.”
FOX START: Bowling Green inserted Fox, an Anthony Wayne graduate, into the starting lineup in place of Derek Koch. Huger explained Fox got his second start this season and third in his career in an attempt to match up with the Rockets lineup, particularly Navigato.
“Derek hasn’t seen that type of movement that Navigato brings to them,” Huger said. “I didn’t want Navigato to ‘go off’ on us like he has done in the past.
“Matt Fox understands, and did a good job on him.”
While Navigato finished with 17 points, 14 of them came in the second half when the Falcons defense had broken down.
INJURY REPORT: Freshman guard Nelly Cummings was not in uniform for the game; he was wearing a walking boot to protect an ankle injury suffered in practice late last week.
Cummings is expected to be available Tuesday, when the Falcons host Ohio University at 7 p.m.
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