Toledo and Bowling Green set back offensive basketball about 10 years last night.
My advice to coaches Stan Joplin and Dan Dakich is to burn the game tape. On this night, like most nights, BG-UT turned into an ugly, bare knuckles brawl.
You could feel what was coming when you walked into Savage Hall. There was tension, energy and nervous anticipation in the air. For one of the few home games all season, UT's student sections were nearly filled.
Falcons collided with Rockets, elbows introduced themselves to heads and midsections, and open shots came at a physical cost.
Toledo's Kashif Payne breaks away from Bowling Green's John Floyd. The Rockets and Falcons are both 7-5 in the MAC West.
zapotosky / blade Enlarge
The Rockets and Falcons defended. They battled. They missed shots.
Both coaches talked about the good defense that was played, which was expected and demanded on a night when the Rockets finally climbed over the .500 mark with a bloody 58-50 Mid-American Conference win over the Falcons.
Dakich, who was in surprisingly good spirits after the loss, probably said it best.
"What is this, a six-way tie for first now?" joked Dakich, referring to UT, BG and Ball State all tied for second-place in the West Division, a half-game behind Western Michigan, with 7-5 records.
Thank you, Dan Dakich. Levity is precisely what was needed after this game, a game that featured the Rockets and Falcons combining to miss 61 of their 98 field-goal attempts - a ghastly percentage that included both teams going a combined 10-of-42 from 3-point range - not to mention a grand total of 35 turnovers.
"Our offense wasn't pretty, but I thought our defensive intensity was pretty good," Joplin said.
UT set the tone. The Rockets early, intense defense resulted in a perfect start. The Rockets led 19-11 at the 10:26 mark of the opening half and built the advantage to as many as 17 points before intermission.
BG seniors John Reimold's and Josh Almanson's ineffectiveness hamstrung the entire offense. The Falcons entered the game as the 10th-best shooting team in the country (51.1 percent). Only the play of junior Steven Wright (who scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the first 20 minutes) kept BG competitive.
In the first half, BG shot 50 percent, but 12 turnovers limited the Falcons to just 20 shots (and only one foul shot) before the break. After the break, the Falcons shot only 29.6 percent.
Meanwhile, UT also shot 50 percent, dished eight assists and recorded four steals in the opening half.
In the second half, both teams maintained their defensive intensity, but the Falcons also diversified on the offensive end.
Reimold, who finished with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting, starting knocking down shots and the Falcons pulled within four points at 39-35. Almanson, who finished with seven points, never got into the offensive flow.
UT stagnated after intermission. Senior Keith Triplett (eight points on 3-of-11 shooting) never located his shooting range, and junior Sammy Villegas (11 points on 4-of-10 shooting) lost his way offensively after experiencing some early success from long range.
It's difficult to analyze UT's offense. Too many possessions were wasted by a lack of ball movement. The Rockets shot 24 percent in the second-half, which made BG's 29.6 percent second-half shooting look almost regal.
Had the Rockets been equipped with a real low-post weapon, a weapon capable of kicking the ball out to a teammate for an open look, it would make the Rockets' inconsistent perimeter game more effective.
Maybe the Rockets will discover a solution for their lack of scoring in time for Saturday's home game against Northern Illinois. Chalk up last night's win to UT's defense. Offense need not apply.
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