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Uhl making the most of her starting opportunity

When Jen Uhl was inserted into the starting lineup two games ago, she did the same thing she has all season; step up when her team needed her too.

For the first 21 games of the season, Uhl, a sophomore, started the game on the bench and played sparingly for BG.

Then came the suspension of junior Niki McCoy. McCoy, a starter for the first 21 games, was second on the team in scoring and rebounding. With BG in the thick of their Mid-American Conference West swing, some wondered if the Falcons would fair well in her absence.

Against Western Michigan, the McCoy-less Falcons gave their critics some ammunition, just slipping by the Broncos in overtime 79-77.

“When we lost Niki, everyone thought that would be a vulnerable spot,” coach Curt Miller said.

Against Toledo, however, Uhl proved there is nothing vulnerable about her game.

Uhl played one of the best games of her career against the Rockets, finishing one rebound shy of a double-double, with nine, tying a career high.

Uhl also finished the game against UT with 14 points, three steals and two blocked shots.

“We chose our poison and picked Uhl,” UT coach Tricia Cullop said. “Unfortunately she stepped to the plate, and when she stepped up, we were in trouble.”

It wasn’t so much the final statistics that jumped out after the game, but the way she went about collecting them.

Early in the first half, after scoring the team’s first four points, Uhl chased down a loose ball, and as she fell out of bounds, threw a pass to Lauren Prochaska who nailed a three to ignite the crowd.

Later in the half, her roommate Tracy Pontius hit her with a no look pass under the basket that Uhl turned into two points while almost parallel to the ground.

Late in the first half, with the Falcons fending off a UT run, Uhl stepped back and nailed a three pointer, despite not having a reputation as a three point shooter.

And Uhl kept stepping up in the second half as well.

With UT stealing the momentum and having closed the gap to five points, Uhl got between her defender and the basket, drawing a charge that put the momentum back in BG’s corner. Then, with about four minutes to play in the game, Uhl put up a shot resembling a “sky hook,” that put the Falcons up by 11, their biggest lead of the game to that point.

“I have to step up,” Uhl said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

Coming into the game against WMU, Uhl had averaged a modest 4.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Since becoming the starter, she’s averaged 12.5 points and nine rebounds.

This kind of production has even led some to believe that McCoy’s mistake might have almost been a good thing for the team.

“Adversity helps teams,” Miller said. “We can take a positive out of a very negative situation.”

Uhl’s emergence as an elite player is huge for the Falcons. Before McCoy’s suspension, the team was referred to as having a big three of Lauren Prochaska, Pontius and McCoy.

Now, aside from those three, it’s clear that Uhl can step up on both ends of the floor as well, along with Tara Breske. Those five offensive threats, plus the shut down defense played by Lindsey Goldsberry, is a formula for success.

“It’s a big threat having everyone being able to score,” Pontius said.

It remains unclear what will happen when McCoy rejoins the team on Feb. 21 against Akron. Uhl will likely start at first, but whether or not McCoy regains her spot in the starting five is yet to be seen.

The only thing about the situation that for sure is that BG is incredibly solid at the position, and Uhl has arrived.

For news, notes and opinions on all BG sports, check out www.bgnewssports.com.

Contact assistant sports editor Jason Jones at [email protected].

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