How the West is won

The Ali Mann farewell tour continued Saturday as BG defeated Northern Illinois 85-76. Like all her other Mid-American Conference opponents, the Huskies and their fans were probably glad it was one of the last times they would play against Mann.

The senior forward scored 23 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in the Falcons 35th straight victory in MAC play.

“You could see the fire in her eye today,” said BG coach Curt Miller.

Mann is averaging over 20 points and nine rebounds in the Falcons’ last five road games. Her stellar numbers are a likely reason that BG has won 16 of its last 17 on the road.

The past three games have not been easy for the Falcons, they had their toughest win of the year against Toledo who played well inside, then followed with a thriller over Ball State who had guards that drove lanes well all night. Saturday’s game featured great three-point shooting from the Huskies.

Led by Stephanie Raymond’s 23 points, NIU never let the game get out of reach. Raymond, Mary Basic and Kylie York combined to go 11-of-22 from three-point range.

“We talked about making them go two-by-two-by-two. Maybe after they made their 11th three, we got the picture,” Miller said.

Miller was impressed by Raymond’s play.

“In my opinion – if no one from our team is – she is the player of the year in this conference, and she has this program going at a high level,” he said.

Kate Achter was effective as usual for the Falcons. She scored 22 points, had three assists and has scored double digits in her last six games.

After struggling against Ball State, Jasmine McCall was Curt Miller’s

X-factor of the game. The sophomore was a huge boost on defense, she had four steals and a block. She shot an efficient 3-for-4 from the field and scored six points.

“She stepped up after probably her poorest game of the year, and had a huge game for us today,” Miller said. “She was the difference, and that shows her maturity.”

The game was the last of four tough conference games in a row. BG passed all the tests in front of it and has one last trip through the MAC East. The game with NIU was seen by many as a trap game for the Falcons. It won’t be easy to catch BG snoozing though, 15 straight wins and 56 wins in their last 62 games can attest to that.

“It almost created an underdog feel for our team, for the first time in a long time,” Miller said. “This was a gutty performance by a veteran team today; there were a lot of reasons why we could have lost here, but we gutted it out.”