Men’s basketball clinches first round bye against Kent State

Evan Hayes and Evan Hayes

The 2019 regular season has been one of the most successful in recent program history for the Men’s basketball team, but their storybook season had hit a couple bumps in the road of late.

Entering this past Friday’s home matchup against Kent State, the Falcons, after losing their last two games, were able to turn it around on senior night, defeating the Golden Flashes 77-72 on the back of a strong defensive performance. With the win, Bowling Green clinched a first round bye and a spot in the quarterfinals of the 2019 MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

“The defense was what kept us in the game. We got key stops,” Huger said. “We were able to keep them under control…and that was the difference.”

Bowling Green improved to 20-9 on the season, the 14th 20-win season in program history and the first since the 2014-15 season. The Falcons 12-4 MAC record was also impressive, with it being just the seventh season in program history with 12 conference wins.

Guard Justin Turner led the way for the Falcons with 18 points, while forward Demajeo Wiggins scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Guard Antwon Lillard, starting in the first game of his career, scored 14 points and recorded 2 steals.

Kent State controlled the glass during the game, holding a 41-30 rebounding advantage on the night while pulling down 20 offensive rebounds. But the Falcons were able to overcome the disadvantage on the boards and a cold night shooting from 3-point range (17-6, 35 percent) on the strength of their defense, holding the Golden Flashes to just 40.6 percent shooting from the field and 29-7 (24.1 percent) from beyond while scoring more points off turnovers (13-8), points in the pain (38-32) and points off the bench (24-11).

The Falcons got off to a good start in the first half, holding Kent State to just 32-12 from the field to take an early 34-27 lead entering halftime. The Golden Flashes were ice cold from 3-point range in the second half (4-14), and while they were able to take a 1-point lead with nine minutes left to play, the Falcons quickly took it back and cruised down the stretch. Despite a close score for most of the game, the Falcons only trailed for one minute, 22 seconds of the 40-minute contest.

Seniors Wiggins, Lillard, De Andre’ Austin and Jeffrey Uju were all honored during the game for their time at Bowling Green. All four started the game, a big reason why the Falcons started off so well on the defensive end.

“I would like to say thank you to my seniors. Those guys have done a fabulous job for us,” Huger said. “I’m very proud of what they’ve done, and I’m proud of the effort that they gave on the defensive end.”

The Falcons were able to hold the MACs leading scorer, KSU’s Jaylin Walker, to 26 points on 28 shots, shutting down the Golden Flashes leading scorer and killing their offensive momentum. Meanwhile, nine different Bowling Green players scored points in a balanced offensive attack that saw the Falcons more focused than they have been of late.

Staying focused and playing up to their potential will be a must for the Falcons as they close out their regular season with two road contests this week. With a trip to Cleveland now secured, Huger believes his team can get back to who they really are moving forward.

“I think the biggest thing was getting to Cleveland,” Huger said “We were already there, when we went out to Ohio our minds were already in Cleveland. That made it difficult for us, because when you’re thinking about something that’s not there yet, you can’t do well in the moment.”

“That’s what we got away from. The games that we’ve won we’ve stayed in the moment, and that was the biggest thing, we stayed in the here and now. Today, I thought we stayed in the moment and we were relaxed, and going forward, I think you’ll see a better team.”

The Falcons will return to action this coming Tuesday, March 5 when they travel to Akron for a matchup with the Zips, scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. on ESPN+. Bowling Green will then close out their regular season schedule on Friday, March 8 when they travel to face conference leader Buffalo.