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BOWLING GREEN - Regardless of what occurs during the next four weeks, it would be harsh to label Bowling Green State University's season anything but a success.
The once-woeful Falcons are winning in the conference, and at home, with regularity. And if further validation was needed, BG has now won its rivalry game.
BG snapped its three-game losing streak to the University of Toledo yesterday with a 69-58 victory at Anderson Arena.
Louis Orr and his players downplayed the rivalry's significance both before and after the game, but they may stand alone in that stance.
"The best thing is you get bragging rights for a year," forward Nate Miller said. "Any win is a good win, but since it came against our rival, we feel good about that."
It was a meaningful victory for various reasons. BG (11-11, 6-4) doubled its Mid-American Conference win total from a year ago and bested its five league wins from the 2005-06 season.
Meanwhile, UT (7-15, 4-6) continues its troubles on the road, losing its 15th straight away from Savage Hall. Rockets coach Stan Joplin got irritable when asked if his team's road woes have gotten frustrating.
"I think that's just like saying are you tired of losing," Joplin said.
"Everybody's tired of losing. That's not a very smart question as far as I'm concerned. No one wants to go out here and try to lose. We're battling. We're shorthanded."
UT indeed battled, cutting a 15-point deficit early in the second half to 46-44 with 9:45 remaining. BG responded with a 12-4 run, making the score 58-48 with 3:03 to go and the Rockets never seriously threatened again.
"We just felt like we had to withstand their run," BG's Otis Polk said. "We fought back and got our lead back."
BG dominated in two key areas, shooting 54 percent to UT's 35 and snatching 39 rebounds compared to the Rockets' 24. In Wednesday's overtime loss to Central Michigan, BG couldn't secure a rebound at the end of regulation that would have won the game.
The Falcons tried to make up for it early yesterday, grabbing 21 boards in the first half and allowing UT just seven. Miller, who scored a game high 21 points, had 11 boards, and Chris Knight garnered 10. Statistically, BG and UT are two of the worst rebounding teams in the MAC, but the Falcons were far superior yesterday.
"If we have a weakness that's probably our weakness," Miller said. "Coach is on me and Chris all the time about getting rebounds. We knew that we had to get in there and battle."
Polk grabbed five boards but was more influential on offense, particularly on two plays midway through the second half. The first was a rumbling dunk set up by a splendid pass from Joe Jakubowski who attracted three Rocket defenders in the paint. Polk scored BG's next four points, the first two at the line and the second set on an uncontested layup against a careless UT defense that was burnt on a bounce pass from Darryl Clements.
"I saw 'O' on the baseline and he cocked it pretty far back. It was pretty nice," Jakubowski said.
Clements and Polk both finished with 12 points, and Polk added four blocks.
"He got some easy dump off and some rebounds but nothing really surprised me with him," UT's Jerrah Young said of Polk.
Tyrone Kent not making a serious impact was a surprise. Kent, the MAC's leading scorer at 17.4 ppg, had zero points at halftime and attempted just three shots - all 3-pointers. Kent picked it up in the second half with 15 points but that wasn't enough to compensate for his 5 of 20 shooting, which was largely a product of BG's zone defense that prevented him from penetrating.
"He's the guy that will try to take over the game," Orr said. "Our big concern was to try to contain their dribble penetration. We did that but they hit some 3s."
Jerrah Young scored 14 points for the Rockets, who never led after going up 12-11.
Orr wouldn't budge from his position that yesterday's win was no more noteworthy than beating Buffalo or Ball State. It's not at attitude shared by most, but it has worked for the Falcons.
"I guess the last win is the biggest win of the year, so I'd say it's the biggest win of the year," Orr said.
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