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Falcons move into first place with win over Kent State

Records, 19 lead changes, countless runs and a fantastic finish. Last night’s men’s basketball game had it all. BG (16-11, 9-4 Mid-American Conference), came away with a 67-66 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes, (16-12, 8-5 MAC) last night in a MAC game that had huge implications. Both teams entered the game in a four way tie for second place with KSU owning the tie breaker after a win over BG at home earlier in the year. On this night, however, it was the Falcons who would pull of the stunning victory. ‘This time of year you have to expect a battle, and this was a great win,’ BG coach Louis Orr said. The first half was a classic back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change seven times. BG got off to a slow start when sloppy play led to turnovers, which in turn led to KSU points. By the end of the first half, BG had 10 turnovers to KSU’s five. KSU was able to force a slew of first half turnovers largely in part to their defensive scheme. Unlike the first time the two teams played, the Golden Flashes laid a half-court trap on the Falcons from the start, to which BG struggled to find an answer for. But when the Falcons were able to hold onto the ball, they performed quite well. Behind the shooting of Darryl Clements and Joe Jakubowski, who each finished the first half with eight points, the Falcons were able to shoot an outstanding 60 percent from the field for the half. Toward the end of the half, the Falcons tried to mimic the KSU half-court trap, to which they often let the Golden Flashes’ Jordan Mincy get left open. Mincy hit three three-pointers and finished the half with 13 points. At the break, BG led 34-31. BG started the second half off much like they started the first; with sloppy turnovers and a KSU run. The Falcons reacted well though, with Nate Miller hitting a set of three-point shots, and Brian Moten adding another five points to complete a run that put the Falcons up by six. As an emotional Moten pounded his chest down the court, KSU called a timeout in an attempt to stop the run. The feeling didn’t last though, because following the timeout, not only did the BG run end, but another KSU run began, this one of the 11-0 variety that put KSU back in front. Otis Polk resuscitated the Falcons with 7:10 to play by finishing a score with a thunderous two-handed dunk. An 8-0 BG run ensued, and the Falcons retook the lead. ‘Polk’s eyes must light up like it’s Christmas when he sees Kent State on the schedule. He’s bigger than our guys, he’s stronger and he dominates against us,’ KSU coach Geno Ford said. Still, with just 2:00 to play, the Falcons found themselves trailing by one. An acrobatic finish down low by Miller gave BG the lead, but a KSU score of the same fashion put the Golden Flashes back up. ‘Miller won the game. He made every big play and did exactly what you want your seniors to do,’ Ford said. The next time down the floor saw BG take the lead back after Jakubowski, who looked to be completely trapped down low, found Polk for the go-ahead score. Moments later, Polk made one of the greatest hustle plays of the season, diving on a loose ball and securing possession while staying just in bounds along the baseline. ‘Big Otis got down and called a timeout. He was the first on the floor and that was a huge play,’ Orr said. After Erik Marschall knocked down one free throw for the Falcons, Miller came up with a steal that sent him to the line with a chance to finish things by making it a two possession game. He missed both. With 0:02 left to play, KSU’s Chris Singletary was fouled and sent to the line, needing to hit two for the tie. After sinking the first, he missed the second. However, the ball went out of bounds, and possession went to KSU with 1.1 seconds left. A prayer of a shot by KSU wasn’t answered, and the Falcons pulled off a thrilling victory. ‘My hallelujah moment,’ Orr said. BG’s win avenges the poor second half showing they put forth in Kent State. ‘We gutted it out down the stretch, and we got a great win for our team,’ Miller said. Despite the huge run KSU had down the stretch, the Falcons were able to come back. Something they didn’t come close to doing last time. After that game in KSU, they admitted to not being able to handle the KSU runs. This night was different though. ‘We withstood their runs, we were able to get the win,’ Miller said. Miller finished with a game high 16 points and eight rebounds. All five BG starters finished in double figures, including Polk, who along with a huge performance late in the game, made history. By recording a blocked shot in the first half, Polk tied the record for career blocks and is now one shy of breaking it. ‘It’s a huge accomplishment for me, but it’s part of my game,’ Polk said. Now the Falcons control their own destiny. Buffalo, the team leading the MAC East yesterday, lost to Akron. Now BG, Akron and Buffalo all sit at 9-4 in the MAC. ‘Our mentality all year has been that the next game is the biggest game of the year,’ Orr said. In this case, BG’s next game actually is its biggest game of the year. On Sunday, the Falcons will meet Akron for a battle for first place. Because they own the tie breaker with Buffalo, a win would put BG atop the entire conference. Sunday’s meeting with Akron coincides with the first day of March. Let the madness ensue.

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