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Falcons control their own destiny

The men’s basketball team is in complete control of their destiny as the Mid-American Conference Tournament awaits them next week.

Two games remain on the regular season schedule and their goal is simple: Win out and receive a first-round bye in the Tournament.

The Falcons (17-8, 10-6 MAC) have a huge challenge to face first as they travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. tonight to play Western Michigan, who is tied with BG for first place in the MAC West Division.

When the two met on Jan. 15 in Anderson Arena the results were troubling for the Falcons as they fell 70-61, losing for the fifth consecutive time to the Broncos. Tonight’s matchup is crucial to prevent WMU from holding a tie-breaker over BG if both teams ended the regular season with equal conference records.

BG knows what to expect from Western (17-10, 10-6) and what it will take to overcome the Broncos recent dominance in the series.

“In that game (Jan. 15), we didn’t guard the post very well, we started out the game not making shots around the rim, and you have to be tough to play Western,” said Falcons head coach Dan Dakich. “Tough doesn’t mean punching somebody, tough just means being determined to make shots around the basket, under pressure, run your offense and not turn the ball over.”

While having to win on the road against one of the best teams in the conference is quite a daunting task, the Falcons, along with the Broncos and Buffalo, are 4-4 on the road in MAC games. They are the only teams at or above .500 away from home in the league.

The Falcons are coming off a thrilling 57-56 win over MAC leader Miami on Sunday on Josh Almanson’s game- winning basket with six seconds to play.

After such an emotional win, the team did not want to relish in their glory too long as they did after defeating Arkansas-Little Rock on Feb. 19, then having to play their next game on the road.

“We learned, at least we saw what happened to us last week when our team doesn’t come down (after a big win, losing 72-61 at Northern Illinois following the UALR game),” Dakich said. “In the locker room after the (Miami) game, our players started talking about ‘hey we got another game’.”

Both the Falcons and Broncos stack up closely by the numbers. This game will pit the top two tandems in the conference against one another in BG’s John Reimold (18.0 points per game, first in MAC) and Almanson (17.7, tied for second) versus WMU’s Ben Reed (17.4, fourth) and Levi Rost (16.7, fifth).

Not only are Reed and Rost in the top five in scoring, they both are tied for ninth in rebounding (6.1).

Almanson (61.1 percent) and Reimold (52.9) are the top two shooters in the conference, while Reed (45.6) and Rost (45.4) are ranked fifth and sixth.

Rost, who scored a game-high 20 points in the first meeting, might be the best outside shooter in the MAC as he has connected on 78 three’s, tops in the conference, on 45.9 percent shooting, which is second. Reimold is tied for third overall in three-point percentage, hitting at a 45.5 percent clip.

The numbers do not add up solely with the two stars from each team. They get nearly equal play from their point guards. BG’s John Floyd is second in the MAC in assists with 5.6 per game, while scoring 7.3 points a night. WMU’s Rickey Willis is third in assists at 5.0 and averages 7.4 points.

BG, who last defeated the Broncos in 2002 at University Arena 78-66, scores 70.6 points as a team, which is considerably important since they are 13-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points.

WMU gives up just 67.6 points per game. Their +6.0 scoring margin ranks second in the conference.

The game begins at 7 p.m. and can be heard on the radio on 107.7 FM.

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