BG falls to Broncos, 67-65

Andrew Clayman and Andrew Clayman

The recent woes of the Bowling Green men’s basketball team continued Saturday, as the Western Michigan Broncos escaped Anderson Arena with a 67-65 win. It was the Falcons’ fifth consecutive loss, and in a more disturbing trend, their third straight setback at home.

The Falcons (10-12, 6-8 Mid-American Conference) did overcome a sluggish start and an eight point second half deficit to give themselves a chance to win the game down the stretch, but Western Michigan converted six of seven free throw attempts in the final minute to secure their lead.

BG still had an opportunity to tie the game in the closing moments, as freshman guard Ronald Lewis was fouled behind the arc with just under four seconds remaining and his team facing a 67-64 deficit. Lewis split the first two foul shots, however, and the Falcons could not recover his intentionally-missed third shot. Western Michigan (14-7, 6-6) was then able to launch the ball down court and run out the remainder of the clock.

With center Kevin Netter in foul trouble in the second half, it was Lewis who had stepped up and led BG’s comeback charge, scoring all 15 of his points in the last 13 minutes of action. After trailing 40-32 earlier in the half, a pair of Lewis free throws brought BG even with WMU at 48-48 with 7:52 remaining. A minute later, Cory Ryan banked in a long range three-pointer as the shot clock was running down, giving the Falcons a 53-50 advantage and their first lead since early in the game.

Western Michigan, paced by guard Robby Collum’s 18 points, continued to make foul shots and prevented BG from finding any breathing room. A three-point play from Jabari Mattox gave the Falcons a 56-53 lead with 5:39 to go, but it would be their last field goal for the next five minutes. Meanwhile, WMU converted four unanswered foul shots to retake the lead for good.

“Any time you line up against Bowling Green, you know it’s going to be a physical, hard fought game,” Western Michigan head coach Robert McCullum said. “Fortunately, we just made a play or two down the stretch, and that was the difference.”

Perhaps the game’s key play came with BG trailing 59-58 and less than a minute left on the clock. The Falcons failed to secure a rebound after a missed lay-up by Bronco forward Mike Williams. WMU had three put-back attempts on the shot, culminating in a Williams basket and the fifth foul of the night on Netter. Williams converted the three-point play, giving the Broncos a 62-58 lead with 53 seconds left in regulation.

The Falcons struck back quickly with a clutch three-pointer from John Reimold, cutting the deficit to 62-61, but the Broncos remained steady at the charity stripe and refused to let BG beat them with any more long range jumpers. Ron Lewis was fouled twice in the final 11 seconds, preventing him or anyone else from tying the game with one big shot.

“We just wanted to make them hit free throws,” Collum said, who was whistled for the first foul on Lewis. “We wanted to put the pressure on them, and not give them the one shot to hit the three.”

Coming off a 26 turnover performance in Toledo, BG again had trouble holding on to the ball, turning it over 22 more times as the offensive continued to struggle. Ten minutes into the game, the Falcons had managed only two field goals, and they trailed by as much as ten points in the first half. A late surge pulled them to within two, 27-25, at the half, with Netter scoring 13 of his team high 17 points. BG also got 11 points each in the game from Reimold and Ryan.

WMU completed a sweep of the season series with the win, and they also moved ahead of BG in the MAC West Division standings, dropping the Falcons into fifth place.

Dakich and his slumping squad will now have a week to get on the right track for next Saturday’s ESPN Bracket Buster event in Chicago.

By Chris Willig

Sports Reporter

The men’s basketball team’s confidence is at an all-time low, after losing to Western Michigan by just two points on Saturday. The loss comes in the middle of the Falcons longest losing streak of the season.

The Falcons have lost their last five games, all of which were Mid-American Conference games. The Falcons have also only been able to win two games out of the previous ten, and are finding themselves extremely frustrated.

The Falcons have not been blown out by any team in the conference, yet they just can’t find a way to win games. The Falcons who, have often found themselves down early and playing catch up in the second half in the streak.

The team, defensively, has been playing much better than the record reflects. Forcing Western Michigan to 21 turnovers Saturday, and Toledo to 26 on Tuesday, the defense has been a major contributor for this basketball team. The defense, however, has not been enough for the Falcons to be successful. With 48 turnovers in the past two games, the Falcons find themselves with a turnover statistic that is not easily overcome.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated in my entire life,” said Falcons head coach Dan Dakich after the loss to WMU. “We look like an unconfident basketball team right now.”

The Falcons’ confidence seems to have be down for a quite a while. With their last win coming in January, the Falcons find themselves struggling, which will be featured on ESPN 2. After Saturday’s conference loss, the Falcons have some regrouping to do, trying to figure out what the difference is between the start of their season and the end.

Dakich tried all he could to raise the confidence level and mix things up a bit on Saturday. The Falcons came out with a lineup that had never been used this year. Cory Eyink got the start over leading scorer Kevin Netter, and freshman Raheem Moss started at the point guard position over Jabori Mattox. Players Cole Magner and Keon Newson also saw time in the first half on Saturday.

Overall, the Falcons seemed to have responded well to the lineup shakeup. They were running a good offensive game plan, getting the ball into Netter or Eyink, driving to the hoop and opening up the perimeter.

Dakich has often criticized the ability of the guards to give the ball to Netter when he is down in the lane, but many times in the first half they managed to get the ball in deep and scoring eight points in the paint.

The Falcons refused to quit against Western although being down for much of the second half. The Falcons had chances to get back in the game, but could not take advantage of them. This game, like many during the losing streak, seemed to come down to failure to execute.

“It’s really frustrating,” guard Cory Ryan said. “We feel like we played hard enough to win tonight, we just didn’t make shots and make big plays.”

Making the shots and the big plays are things that seem to come easily to the Falcons at home this year, but during this losing streak, the Falcons do not even have that going for them. “It’s our confidence issue right now, the fans have been helping us out a lot, but it’s all about us right now,” said Ryan, who scored 11 points in the losing effort.

The Falcons will attempt to break the losing streak, after an almost week-long break, next Saturday. ESPN’s bracket buster has the Falcons traveling to Chicago to take on Illinois-Chicago.

“Right now we are in a time, where we have to give up or keep fighting, I think were gonna keep fighting,” Ryan said. “We are going to come back, whenever we practice next, and we’re going to get ready to play. Hopefully we’ll get a win there and use that game as a confidence builder and then move on with the rest of the season.”