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BG is set for a battle between East and West leaders

Three games remain in the regular season for the men’s basketball team and two of them pit the Falcons against top Mid-American Conference squads.

Sunday marks the first of the two when Miami (17-7, 11-4 MAC) comes to Anderson Arena. The RedHawks are first in the MAC East and have held a grip on the division all season.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. BG (16-8, 9-6) fell to Northern Illinois 72-61 Wednesday after blowing an early 11-point lead and watching a terrific three-point shooting display (11 of 19) from the Huskies, while Miami lost Wednesday at Akron in overtime 55-49 after shooting an abysmal 31.6 percent from the field and committing 17 turnovers.

It was an uncharacteristic performance for BG and Miami that both will have to shake as they battle for supremacy in the MAC.

The game will match the top shooting team in the conference in BG (49.2 percent) versus Miami’s stifling defense that allows opponents to hit on just 41 percent of their shots.

BG shot 40 percent from the field against the Huskies, but this team has thrived off their shooting ability since the beginning of the season. Josh Almanson ranks first in the conference in field goal percentage at 61.5 percent, followed by teammate John Reimold at 53.7. The two are the only MAC regulars shooting over 50 percent on the season.

The Almanson-Reimold duo has carried the team offensively throughout the year, especially in the last three games, but the Falcons need to have a third option step up. Steven Wright (11.3 ppg) was that option for most of the year, but in the last three games he has totaled just six points.

If Wright can not get back on track, look for head coach Dan Dakich to go to his bench early and often. The bench has been inconsistent in stretches, but has picked up their play lately.

“I think they’ve all really started to understand their role, but I would like their role to be more,” Dakich said of the bench.

Austin Montgomery has filled in well and provided a nice touch from the outside for scoring.

“I feel like Austin has put himself to where Scott [Vandermeer] was five or six games ago, where every time I’ve put him in he’s done really well, so he deserves more playing time,” Dakich said.

Much of the success for the RedHawks is due to excellent play from their frontcourt and a slow style of offense that frustrates opponents and takes them out of their game.

Miami has had the same starting five in all but one game this season and averages a league-low 66.6 points per game. But that does not reflect an inability to score. With their style of play and emphasis on defense, the RedHawks allow a MAC best 62.2 points.

6-6, 242 pound forward Danny Horace is the leader for Miami. He is tops in the conference averaging 9.6 rebounds and leads the team in scoring at 15.4. Horace had a great stretch last week, averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds on his way to being named MAC East Division Player of the Week, an award he received for the third time this season.

The Falcons must try to prevent the RedHawks from knocking down three’s. After NIU torched BG from deep, the team does not get a break this weekend as Miami ranks right behind the Huskies in three-point percentage at 38.9. Reserve Doug Penno can change a game when he gets in due to his superb range in which he has hit 52 percent on three’s this year.

Tip-off is scheduled for noon and the game will air on FSN Ohio.

BG will then travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. Wednesday to play Western Michigan to compete for the MAC West crown.

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