Mann reaches milestone as Falcons continue to cruise

By Jessica Ameling

With 3.5 seconds remaining in the first half of the BGSU women’s game Saturday afternoon, Ali Mann hit the front end of a one-and-one.

And Anderson Arena exploded.

Despite being “sicker than a dog,” according to her coach, with that free throw, the 6-foot, 1-inch junior forward became the 19th player in BGSU history and just the sixth junior to hit the 1,000 point milestone.

“It’s obviously a great honor to hit 1,000 points,” Mann said after the game against Akron. “I didn’t do it in high school, so it was kind of a goal of mine in college to hit it. But I didn’t put much pressure on myself, if it happened it happened.”

Mann picked the perfect time for it to happen, as Saturday was the only home game for the Falcons in a span of 42 days. The 10-2 (1-0 Mid-American Conference) Falcons downed the 3-9 (0-1 MAC) Akron Zips 71-54 in both team’s conference opener.

Despite having “a little bronchitis,” Mann finished with a game-high and season-high 25 points and nine rebounds. Teammates Kate Achter and Megan Thorburn both added 11.

“I knew I needed 11 points coming into the game,” she said. “But I wasn’t gunning, I wasn’t shooting any more or any less, I just let it come natural. It was great to do it at home in front of all the fans and my family, and I’m just happy.”

Mann is averaging 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds on the season. She has steadily improved throughout her career, averaging 12.9 her freshman year and 13.8 as a sophomore. Her field goal percentage is currently at a career-high 49.6 percent.

BG coach Curt Miller said Mann wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, but his versatile forward, who can also penetrate off the dribble and shoot the 3, has continued to develop as a Falcon.

“Ali Mann is an unbelievable story for us,” Miller said. “A lot of people questioned if she had the foot speed at the major conferences to play the three. And they wondered if she was tough enough and physical enough to play the four. And that is exactly what we’re looking for in our program for the power forward position – a player that has skilled perimeter skills, but is tough enough to play inside in our conference.”

Mann led her team in scoring in three of the Falcons’ five games over Christmas break, as the team went 3-2 during that span. The losses came at the hands of Delaware, 48-44, and Kentucky, 66-62 in overtime. The wins were over Oakland, 72-59, Iona, 62-45 and Akron.

“The exciting part is that we’re 10-2 and 1-0, and not playing our best basketball yet,” Miller said. “Since finals back in mid-December I don’t think we’ve played a real crisp game. But, we’re hanging our hat this year on our defense. Our defense has been terrific; we’ve consistently held teams in the 50s.”

BG has held teams to just 36.9 percent from the field and 54.7 points per game this season. Junior Liz Honegger is leading the Falcons with 23 blocks this season and is currently second on the all-time list for career blocked shots at BGSU. Carin Horne is leading the team with 36 steals.

The Falcons continue their conference schedule this week with games at Buffalo today and Kent State on Saturday. Despite winning only four games last season, Buffalo is currently 6-6 with one conference win over Miami.

“Buffalo’s starting five is playing as good as any starting five in the league,” Miller said. “It’s a big game for us to find out where we are.”

But one thing Miller is sure of is the impact of Mann on the Falcons’ early success.

“I’m not sure where this program would be without Ali Mann,” he said. “She’s certainly our leader, our go-to player. She’s making a run here early in the year as a MAC Player of the Year candidate.”

And Mann knows the best way to make that happen is to lead her team to a second straight MAC championship.

“It’s great to win,” Mann said. “Losing is never fun, so it’s just great to be on a winning team where anyone can step up on any given night. And this team is amazing. We get along so well and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”