A second chance for BG

BGSU men’s coach Dan Dakich casually entered the post-game press conference at Anderson Arena, engaged in light conversation with a reporter before humoring the media with a few remarks.

What a difference a few plays will make.

Dakich’s attitude on Sunday afternoon suggested his team had made monumental strides following a heartbreaking one-point loss to Northern Illinois just four days earlier.

In actuality, the Falcons simply learned how to finish a game as they hit crucial shots and played solid defense down the stretch in a 59-52 victory over Toledo, adding yet another chapter to a passionate rivalry.

“Experience in these situations from the other night probably helped,” Dakich said.

On Wednesday, The Falcons led Northern by 15 during the first half and shot season bests in field goal and three-point percentage. But a Mike McKinney tip-in with four seconds remaining negated all that went right for the Falcons.

“We felt like we let up against Northern Illinois a little bit,” said BG senior Mawel Soler. “This game, we wanted to come out with a defensive intensity and just play for 40 minutes.”

Anything less would have likely resulted in defeat.

UT’s Justin Ingram hit a pair of free throws with 50 seconds remaining to cut the Rockets’ deficit to 55-52, but BG’s John Floyd responded at the other end with a tough eight-footer – his only field goal of the day – to once again make it a two possession game. Ingram then missed two 3-pointers before Soler grabbed the rebound, got fouled, and hit both free throws.

“As a whole it’s frustrating because we lost to a Bowling Green team we thought we could beat,” said Ingram, who scored 10 points. “We just didn’t do anything at the end. We needed to make a defensive stop, and Floyd hit a big shot.”

The Falcons improve to 6-8 overall and 2-2 in the Mid-American Conference despite a poor shooting effort by the team’s leading scorer, Martin Samarco. Samarco, who entered the game with 18.1 ppg, scored 12 points on just 3-for-21 shooting from the field, including 2-for-10 from 3-point range. Soler, BG’s only senior, took advantage of Samarco’s misfortune and had game-highs with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Soler also had five of the Falcons’ 13 steals – contributing to Toledo’s 24 turnovers. In contrast, BG committed just 13 turnovers – three in the second half.

“It’s a tough loss to take because we were right there,” said UT coach Stan Joplin. “You have to steal some games on the road, and we had an opportunity to do that, but [we had] too many turnovers.”

Many of the Rockets’ turnovers were a result of sloppy or rushed offensive sets, but BG also played a vital part by playing physical defense in the paint and out on the perimeter. Toledo (8-5, 1-4) had just seven points off turnovers compared to 18 by the Falcons.

“Every time I come in the game, coach tells me to pressure the ball and cause the opponents to do stuff they don’t want to do,” said point guard Moon Robinson. “Tonight, it worked; I made a few steals and made them do a few things they didn’t want to do.”

Not including Sunday’s meeting, five of the last seven games played between BG and Toledo have been decided by four points or less – a feat that didn’t seem at all attainable early on in the first half. The Falcons jumped out to a 13-2 advantage with 10:08 remaining on a Soler lay-up, but Toledo hit back-to-back 3s to cut the lead to 13-8.

“I thought we got the lead the right way, by defending and cutting,” Dakich said. “The wrong way is throwing in a bunch of 3s when the shot clock is running down.”

Wrong or right, the Rockets battled back to tie the game at 27-27 entering half time. Momentum appeared to swing toward their way, and the Falcons have certainly not established themselves as a great second-half team this season. But BG jumped out to a five-point advantage five minutes into the frame and relinquished the lead just once the rest of the way.

“At the end of the day, we made a couple shots, and they missed some shots and some free throws,” Dakich said. “That has a lot to do with the ending of a basketball game.”

After all, Dakich should know.