Turner hits game winner as Falcons win 11th MAC contest

Sophomore guard Justin Turner came into Tuesday’s conference matchup with Akron just 22 points away from becoming the 46th player in program history to cross the 1,000 career-point threshold. The Falcons’ leading scorer sat scoreless at halftime while his team trailed, the result of an ice cold offensive start.

“I know I had zero, but at the same time I knew I’d figure it out eventually. In the first half, they were kind of everywhere on me and closing in, timing the gaps,” Turner said. “I knew I would figure it out once I got my legs under me and just to keep attacking.”

Coming out of the half firing on all cylinders, Turner scored all of his game-high 23 points in the second half. He made nine of his 11 second-half shot attempts, the last of which was a basket with 0.9 seconds left that sealed the game for the Falcons (19-7, 11-2 MAC).

Akron’s Loren Cristian Jackson 3-pointer with 19 seconds left tied the game, setting the stage for Turner’s heroics. Walking patiently into the frontcourt during the final 15 seconds, Turner worked off a screen into the middle of the floor before crossing over to his left and charging to the rim for the left-handed finish and a 71-69 lead.

“That’s what we drew up, for a play for Justin to create a shot. And he was able to create a shot, and it went in, and that’s all I can ask for,” head coach Michael Huger said.

After an Akron turnover, guard Michael Laster made two free throws to seal the 73-69 victory. Guard Dylan Frye scored 16 points, while forward Daeqwon Plowden and Laster scored 10 points each.

The first half was one to forget for the Falcons, who fell behind early in the first half 29-25. Frye led the way with 13 points, but the team struggled to find any rhythm offensively, shooting 10-35 (28.6 percent) from the field and 4-15 (26.7 percent) from the 3-point range. Despite the cold start offensively, head coach Michael Huger was more worried about the Zips offense.

“We don’t discuss scoring or any of that stuff. We discuss playing better defense and playing tougher on the defensive end, and that’s what we discussed at halftime. I wasn’t pleased with the way we defended; they were able to get everything they wanted, and we had to take some things away.”

Turner’s hot offensive play in the second half sparked the Falcons offense, with the team shooting 17-31 (54.8 percent) from the field while making 4-10 3-pointers. All of Laster’s points came in the second half as well, providing the Falcons with a spark off the bench.

“It changed the complexion of the game, the pace of the game,” head coach Michael Huger said. “Everything started to amp up a little bit once we started to get stops, and Justin was the catalyst of that.”

It was another close win from the Falcons, and another second half comeback. Playing from behind has become a bit of a theme for the Falcons in the second half of their season, but with each win the team gains valuable experience.

“I think it shows the character of this team. I think it shows how much depth we actually have; people that can come off the bench that we can actually rely on to close out games,” Turner said. “And just the experience of this team. We’re still getting experience but at the same time we’re not folding in certain predicaments; we’re coming out through these situations.”

Bowling Green is 11-2 this season in the MAC, which is the best start through 13 conference games in program history. BGSU remains in first place in the MAC with the win. The Falcons moved to 13-1 on the season at home, setting a Stroh Center record for men’s basketball wins in a season.

The Falcons will travel to Athens, Ohio, this coming Saturday for a road matchup with Ohio. That game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. tip off and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.