BOWLING GREEN – The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team has played some ugly halves of basketball recently.
And the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s game against Kent State may have trumped all of them as the Golden Flashes scored the game’s first 11 points and built a 29-10 lead midway through the period.
“They hit some tough shots, and I thought we were playing hard – but we were rushing our offense,” BG’s Justin Turner said. “But we didn’t panic.”
Not only did the Falcons not panic, they found a way to author an amazing comeback in a 70-62 victory in a Mid-American Conference contest at the Stroh Center.
“We did a great job of sticking together – we didn’t fall apart,” BG coach Michael Huger said. “In those other games when we lost by 31 and 26, we fell apart. …
“We talked about sticking together and overcoming that [slow start], and we did that today.”
The Falcons used a 14-2 finish to the first half to climb back into the contest, worked to tie the game midway through the second half, and capped the comeback with a 14-6 finish to win for the second time this week.
PHOTO GALLERY: BGSU 70, Kent State 62
VIDEO: BGSU-Kent State
Bowling Green (14-9, 5-5 MAC) had four players finish in double figures, led by 20 points from Justin Turner. Springfield High School product Demajeo Wiggins had 13 and nine boards, Rodrick Caldwell scored 12 and Antwon Lillard had 11 for the Falcons.
Kent State (12-11, 6-4 MAC) saw Adonis De La Rosa and Jaylin Walker each score 20, while Jalen Avery added 11.
It was a glorious finish to a game that had a hideous start for Bowling Green, which missed its first eight shots. By the time Wiggins dunked for the Falcons’ first points of the game, Kent State had already scored 11.
Another seven-point run gave the Golden Flashes a 20-5 lead at the 10:36 mark of the half, and KSU led by as many 19 when a B.J. Duling layup made the score 29-10 with five minutes still to play.
“I was thinking, ‘We just have to get stops,’” Huger said. “If we could get stops, we could get out in transition, and we’re at our best when we’re out in transition.
“I thought we got stagnant, and we started missing shots. Then we started missing layups, and that’s hard when you get layups and you miss those.”
But the Falcons clawed back into the game thanks in part to Turner, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers and scored 14 points to end the first half, including a basket at the buzzer that cut KSU’s lead to 31-24.
“I just want to be aggressive,” Turner said. “I started out slow, missed a couple of shots, but that didn’t deter me.
“I hit a couple of shots, and once I found my rhythm I just stayed aggressive.”
It helped that Bowling Green’s defense allowed the Flashes to make just 1-of-6 shots while turning the ball over three times to end the half.
“We fought back, and at the end of the half we did a great job to cut the lead to seven,” Huger said. “You believe at that point that you can win the game.”
The Falcons managed to tie the game when a Turner steal led to a dunk by Lillard with 12:31 left in the second half. But Kent State scored the game’s next six points and the comeback seemed for naught as the Golden Flashes still led by six with 7:12 to play.
“In the huddle we talked about not giving up and staying together,” Huger said. “When they went on that run, we didn’t defend like we should have, and that’s how they got their scores.
“Once we got back to defending, we got stops and got out in transition.”
From that point Bowling Green outscored KSU 23-9; the Flashes made just two of their last eight shots and turned the ball over twice while the Falcons scored on seven straight possessions to build a six-point lead.
“You just have to stay the course, stay poised,” Turner said. “Once we got the lead back, we didn’t give them the lead back.
“We played with more intensity, and when we got that energy we just kept riding the wave.”
In the second half the Falcons did a lot of things well: They outrebounded Kent State 18-12, turned the ball over just four times to KSU’s eight, and made 60 percent of their shots.
According to Huger, all of those showed that his team heeded his halftime call for toughness.
“They out-toughed us in the first half, but we did a much better job in the second half,” he said. “I thought this was about who wanted it more. I thought we wanted it more, and we did a good job of defending home court.”
NOTE: The Falcons’ comeback from a 19-point deficit was the team’s biggest comeback since BG bounced back from a 13-point deficit in a win over Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 18.
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