BOWLING GREEN – The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team did not require a huge comeback to win at home Tuesday. What was required was simply one defensive stop.
But the Falcons were not able to get that critical stop, as Akron’s Jimond Ivey made a jumper in the lane in the final 11 seconds to lead the Zips to an 81-79 win in a Mid-American Conference contest played at the Stroh Center.
And that lack of defense bothered BG coach Michael Huger.
“What can I say – we have to score more points?” he said. “We scored 79 points. We need 90 now to beat Akron?
“Everything goes back to our defense. … We have to play better defense to win games.”
The short-handed Zips, who had just one player taller than 6-6, were able to drive and score on offense while keeping the taller Falcons out of the paint at the defensive end. The result was a sweep of the season series – and Akron’s 19th win 20 games against BG.
“Akron once again out-toughed us – they were tougher than us on both ends of the court,” Huger said. “We weren’t tough enough defensively or offensively.
“They were able to stop us with a smaller lineup … and they took advantage of us at the other end of the floor.”
Bowling Green (16-12, 7-8 MAC), which saw a four-game home winning streak snapped, was led by 24 points from Dylan Frye. Springfield High School graduate Demajeo Wiggins posted another double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Justin Turner scored 15 and Antwon Lillard 11.
Akron (11-15, 4-10 MAC), which had lost six of its last seven games before Tuesday’s win, claimed its first road win of the season thanks in large part to 29 points by Daniel Utomi. Malcolm Duvivier scored 14 points while Ivey added 12 for the Zips.
The game was tight throughout, including a whopping 27 lead changes and 12 ties. Bowling Green took early control with a 9-0 run that gave them a 20-12 lead with 12:12 left in the period.
But that was the Falcons’ biggest lead in the contest, and it did not last long as the Zips responded with a 13-2 spurt that included three 3-pointers and gave Akron a 27-24 lead with 7:39 on the clock.
The lead then yo-yoed back and forth over the next three minutes before the Zips managed to carve out a 41-38 halftime advantage.
Akron finished with just seven 3-pointers in the contest – the Zips average nearly 10 per contest – but instead they got their points by driving aggressively to the basket. UA finished with 30 free throw attempts, making 24.
“We just didn’t lock in on defense,” Frye said. “You have to be able to guard the 3 and the drive.
“You can’t just guard one or the other. You have to do both.”
Neither team led by more than five points in the second half, with Bowling Green’s Turner nailing a jumper in the lane with 27.5 seconds left to give his team a 79-78 lead. But the Falcons did not score again, and that set the stage for Ivey’s game-winning basket in the lane with just 11 seconds to play.
Bowling Green did not call a timeout, instead driving quickly downcourt to get an open 3 that Frye missed, followed by a Wiggins shot attempt from close range that was blocked by Ivey.
Akron’s Lucas Smith made 1-of-2 free throws with just 1.1 seconds left, and BG’s full-court pass attempt flew out of bounds to douse any thoughts of a comeback.
“Down the stretch we had easy shots that we missed,” Frye said. “But all the mistakes earlier also led to that point.”
While the Falcons were frustrated to see their four-game home win streak end, Huger said his team cannot dwell on the loss.
“It’s on to the next game – it’s on to Kent State,” he said. “We can’t change [this result], and we can’t play it again.
“We have to have the fight, the toughness, the pride at the defensive end, wanting to get a stop at the defensive end. Tonight we didn’t have that.”
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