BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team did not play great defense Tuesday against Ohio.
But when compared to recent games, which saw the Falcons surrender an average of more than 90 points per contest, the 66-50 win against the Bobcats at the Stroh Center looked better.
“We should have been better,” BG center Demajeo Wiggins admitted. “We were up by 22 at the half, and we let up. …
“We were glad we won, but we should have been better.”
But a strong first-half effort, in which the Falcons held Ohio to just 19 points, was enough to claim the Mid-American Conference victory.
“The most important thing was to just get the win,” BG coach Michael Huger said. “At the end of the day, it’s not how you play or what you did: It’s getting the victory at the end.
“You may not play your best game, but if you’re able to win that’s the most important thing.”
Bowling Green (13-9, 4-5 MAC), which had lost three in a row, saw Wiggins post a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Antwon Lillard, who started in place of Rodrick Caldwell after Caldwell was injured in the loss at Toledo, added 13 points, eight rebounds, and four steals.
“We can finally take a breath,” Wiggins said about ending the three-game losing streak. “But we have to turn around and stay focused so we can stay in the ‘W’ column.”
Ohio (9-12, 2-7 MAC), which has lost three in a row and six of its past seven, saw freshman Teyvion Kirk lead the way with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
The Falcons never trailed in the contest, scoring the game’s first eight points before using a 9-0 run to jump to a 21-6 lead with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half.
“There were a few mistakes, but I thought we did a better job than in the last three games, where we were atrocious defensively,” Wiggins said. “We communicated with each other better.
“The last few games we had players out there on islands, pointing fingers instead of taking ownership for ourselves and playing collectively.”
Ohio made just 6-of-29 of its field-goal attempts and missed all five 3-point attempts — and turned the ball over eight times as Bowling Green scored the final six points of the half to lead 41-19.
“We defended,” Huger said of the first-half defense. “We were able to get stops and take away the 3.
“We got energy and effort, and that’s why we had a 22-point lead.”
The Bobcats found some offense to start the second half, making 9-of-13 shots from the floor to start. Ohio outscored BG 8-2 to start the half, then kept the Falcons from scoring during a five-minute span midway through the half.
Huger again was unhappy his young team was satisfied with the big halftime advantage.
“We thought the game was over when we were up 22 instead of going for a 30-point lead,” Huger said. “We let up on the defensive end.
“We relaxed and started taking short cuts, and they made us pay.”
Wiggins agreed, adding, “We got lackadaisical. Our help defense allowed guys to drive straight to the basket, we didn’t rebound like we should.
“There was a multitude of things we should have done better.”
The only reason Bowling Green’s five-minute scoring drought did not cost them was because Ohio managed just nine points in that span. Lillard stopped the run with a layup with 7:18 to play, and the Bobcats came no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
“We didn’t execute the game plan in the second half, and they were able to make it a game,” Huger said. “But we were able to hold on.
“We did just enough to win the game.”
It was an important win, not just because it snapped the three-game losing streak or because it lifted the Falcons into sole possession of seventh place in the MAC standings — and, if it holds, a first-round conference tournament game at home.
“It’s most important for your psyche,” Huger said of the victory. “If you lost three, then you lose again it’s four, five and six — and it’s hard to dig out of that.
“[Winning] helps so much mentally. You feel good about yourself, and when you feel better about yourself you’ll play better.”
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