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Netter the man, for one night at least

Kevin Netter looks like a guy named Jack should be climbing him to meet a giant who says “fe-fi-fo-fum.” At 6’10” and barely 220 pounds, he’ll never be confused with Shaquille O’Neal, or Bill Laimbeer, for that matter.

His maddeningly inconsistent play has left fans’ voices hoarse, but for the wrong reasons. When Len Matela graduated in the spring, BG fans looked ahead to a low-post future with Kevin Netter, and many cupped their hands over their foreheads. As likely to dribble the ball off his foot as off the floor.

Which makes his performance in the Bowling Green basketball team’s 76-59 victory over Buffalo at Anderson Arena last night a vindication of sorts. He scored (maybe you should sit down before reading on) 36 points in 35 minutes.

That was him muscling his defender in the low post and dropping the ball in the hoop. That was him getting in dogfights for rebounds. That was him streaking down the court, fielding the baseball pass and slamming the ball home. Twice in a row. And, yes, that was him getting a technical foul for chirping at a Buffalo player in the heat of the battle.

Netter couldn’t recollect a recent individual performance like this one.

“High school, senior year, but this is a whole new level,” he said. “We practice three hours a day, a game’s only two. So you still have that extra hour of air, wind, left to go out and do your best.” Netter had, by far, his best collegiate performance. But it wasn’t dominating. At times, he looked like he wanted to take over the game but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it. Sometimes, he’d try too hard to force pointblank shots up in the face of defenders, sacrificing clean looks at the basket for four-wheel-drive post power. Other times, he was at the other end of the spectrum, settling for feather jumpers on the baseline, which usually clanked off the far end of the rim.

To get a 36-point game out of Netter, however, coach Dan Dakich will take the bad with the good.

“Some guys have to be calm when they play,” he said. “Kevin has to be wild, almost. Maybe he overdid it at times, but I’d rather have him overdo it than underdo it.”

With the frontcourt thoroughly depleted in light of a season-ending knee injury to Germain Fitch and a nagging ankle injury to Josh Almanson, good performances by Netter are no longer a plus. They are a necessity. Maybe the Falcons don’t need 36 points out of him every night, but they need the energy he brought to the game last night. When Netter left the game with just under two minutes to play, he got a standing ovation from the crowd. For one evening at least, BG’s rail of a boy wonder was the toast of the town.

Netter, however, was more concerned with the way the team finished than the way he finished.

“Coach always told us the way you play the game before, and how you end it is the way you’re going to start up the next game,” Netter said. “We’ve got to finish the game as strong as we can. That way, we’re going to come out the next game as strong as we can.”

For Netter especially, that means no let up from last night’s effort for the rest of the season.

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