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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Rubber match is for the season

If the Bowling Green basketball team doesn’t win the Mid-American Conference Tournament and can’t get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the biggest offender they may look back and see is Akron. It was an 87-86 overtime loss at Akron in January that really knocked the Falcons out of their run at a Top 25 spot. BG came back and beat Akron 76-46 at Anderson Arena two weeks ago. It clinched the third seed in the MAC Tournament later that week, but that loss remains a large blemish on their conference record.

The Falcons open up their MAC Tournament run tonight at 9 p.m. with the quarterfinals at Gund Arena in Cleveland, and Akron once again gets a chance to play spoiler. The Zips finished the regular season 10-20, 5-13 in the MAC, but they are still The Team That Won’t Go Away for BG. They upset Western Michigan in the first round to get to Cleveland, and now get the Falcons in their northeast Ohio territory for a berth in the MAC final four.

The Falcons (22-7, 12-6 MAC), at least on paper, should have few problems getting past Akron. They are led by newly-crowned MAC Player of the Year Keith McLeod, who tied with Cincinnati’s Steve Logan for the nation’s ninth-leading scorer (22.3 points per game.) Len Matela gives the Falcons a frontcourt scoring punch Akron does not really possess, and Brandon Pardon is one of the best ball distributors in the nation.

Akron’s leading scorer is 6-foot-7 guard Rashon Brown, who averages 16.6 points per game. His two games against BG this season were like night and day. In January, he scored 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting. Last month at Anderson Arena, he scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting and committed five turnovers. The turnaround was largely based on BG’s defense, according to coach Dan Dakich.

“I thought our defense against Akron the second time around was as good as can possibly be,” Dakich said. “The first time around, I thought it was as bad as could possibly be.”

At Akron, BG let an 8-point lead slip away in the waning minutes of regulation.

Akron’s second-leading scorer is guard Darryl Peterson, averaging 13.3 points per game. The 6-foot-5 freshman will most likely be McLeod’s defensive assignment. Peterson, too, had starkly contrasting statistics in his two games against BG this year, scoring 18 points in the first game and six in the second.

Perhaps the biggest key for BG’s defense will be stopping David Falknor. The six-foot-7 forward is averaging 11.7 points per game, and he poses the biggest defensive challenge for BG’s big men. At Akron, he jabbed the Falcons for 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He mustered a relatively high nine points in BG?s win last month. Falknor scored 30 against Western Michigan Saturday.

“We came out with a good effort against Falknor the first time, but we didn’t pay real good attention to him,” Dakich said. “The last time we played, we paid more attention to him.”

The winner of tonight’s game gets the winner of the Ball State-Miami game. Ball State, the MAC West Division champion, is the tournament’s No. 2 seed. The other match-ups today are No. 8 Marshall vs. No. 1 Kent State at noon and No. 12 Central Michigan vs. No. 4 Toledo at 4:30. The Miami-Ball State game tips off at 7 p.m..

BG is 2-3 in MAC Tournament games under Dakich. The Falcons were 1-1 last year, defeating Western Michigan before losing to Kent State in the quarterfinals.

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