BG faces test against EMU

Eastern Michigan looks like the hurdle the Bowling Green basketball team will have to clear, sooner or later, to have a chance of gaining a home berth Monday in the first round of next week’s Mid-American Conference tournament.

The walls started tumbling down for BG six weeks ago against the Eagles, who they host tonight at 7 p.m. at Anderson Arena. In Ypsilanti, the Falcons had a six-game winning streak snapped with a 73-67 loss and haven’t been the same since. A three-point win over Miami last week was a brief dose of aspirin between the pain of a seven-game losing streak and the newfound spine-breaking monkey on their backs: getting a home game next Monday.

BG has lost their last five road games.

Even if they finish the season with three straight wins, the Falcons aren’t guaranteed a home game. BG, at 7-9 in the conference, is currently tied with Ohio for the third-worst record in the MAC. They are just behind a small army of 8-8 teams (Akron, Marshall, Western Michigan, Ball State) and Eastern at 8-9.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that the Falcons and Eagles could meet a third time Monday, with a trip to Cleveland on the line.

But first things first. BG has to win tonight, or chances of a home game against anybody next week are almost nil.

Tonight is Eastern Michigan’s regular season finale, which means whoever gets the Eagles Monday will be facing a rested team. At the other end of the spectrum, BG finishes the regular season and starts the postseason with a rigorous Thursday-Saturday-Monday trifecta.

“This is a tough stretch for us,” BG coach Dan Dakich said. “I really don’t understand why this game has to be on a Thursday. It seems ridiculous.”

Dakich said the Falcons intentionally played a Thursday-Saturday set just prior to finals week last semester in preparation for this. BG defeated Oakland 75-68 on Dec. 19 and defeated Urbana 76-48 on Dec. 21.

Eastern defeated BG in January thanks to 18 points from Steve Pettyjohn, and 12 from Ryan Prillman and Michael Ross. It was Pettyjohn’s three-pointer with less than a minute to go that sealed the game for Eastern.

BG lost despite 15 points from Kevin Netter, 14 from Cory Eyink and 10 from Ron Lewis.

“They beat us bad up there,” Dakich said. “That was with Josh [Almanson] and Jabari [Mattox] playing.”

Now, BG has the Magnificent Seven – six scholarship players and Cole Magner – to get them as deep into March as they are going to go.

Magner got himself into Dakich’s rotation, at least for tonight, with an inspiring performance against Miami. His eight points helped give BG a lead that his six steals helped preserve. Magner’s play helped mask flat-tire games by Cory Ryan (three points) and Ron Lewis (six points, five fouls). Games BG cannot afford to have out of key players if they want to be playing after Monday.

Dakich is going to need out of his players tonight what he said he got out of them against Miami.

“When we talked before the game I said that everyone after the game should be exhausted, physically and emotionally whipped,” he said. “I think they did that.”

The M*A*S*H unit

Jabari Mattox had successful surgery on his right knee last week. The reconstructive surgery turned out to be more involved than the similar surgery Germain Fitch underwent late last year, and Jabari has felt it.

“The reparations were the same as Germain’s surgery,” he said. “But there was more damage. He had the surgery on Monday, went home Tuesday, and was with us in Ball State on Wednesday. He looked to be in more pain than Germain was.” In addition, Josh Almanson had a short procedure last week to insert a screw in his recovering ankle. Dakich said a stress fracture in the ankle wasn’t healing properly, but Almanson’s recovery should be back on track in several weeks.