Falcons look to snap skid

Andrew Clayman and Andrew Clayman

In the depths of a seven game losing slide, the BG Men’s Basketball team returns home this Saturday to battle one of the Mid-American Conference’s hottest teams, the Miami Redhawks. It will be the first of three conference home games to round out the regular season for coach Dan Dakich and his injury-plagued Falcons.

BG (10-14, 6-9 in the MAC) will look to regroup after a Wednesday night thrashing at the hands of Ball State. In the first half of that 94-73 loss, Dakich’s frustration reached a boiling point, as he was charged with two technicals and ejected for arguing with the referees.

“I’ve kicked the sideline 80 gazillion times,” Dakich said after the game. “I knew I was going to go. I’ve just had enough.” Dakich made it clear that his anger was fueled by the actions of the referees, and not by the recent struggles of his team. But few would begrudge him the right to be aggravated by the way February has treated the Falcons.

Coming into this month, BG was 10-7 overall and a solid 6-3 in the MAC. Since then, starting point guard Jabari Mattox has joined Josh Almanson and Germain Fitch on the injured list, the team has dropped seven in a row (including three at home), and five schools have passed them by in the MAC West standings. Nonetheless, considering the parity in the MAC this season, any team is vulnerable on any given day. The Falcons will look to prove that on Saturday, when they host Miami at 1 p.m. in Anderson Arena. The Redhawks (13-11, 11-4 in MAC) are winners of four straight, and they have tied a slumping Kent State for first place in the MAC East.

Miami is a perennial contender in the MAC thanks in large part to the coaching strategy of Charlie Coles, who preaches hard-nosed defense and shot clock consumption. The Redhawks’ balanced scoring attack and unique tempo often give opponents headaches, resulting in tight, low scoring games.

Junior guards Juby Johnson (14.9 ppg) and Chet Mason (9.9 ppg) lead the Miami offense, along with sophomore forward Danny Horace (12 ppg). On the defensive end, the Redhawks will likely force BG into a lot of half court sets, meaning center Kevin Netter (15.5 ppg) will have to step up and give the Falcons a presence in the paint.

While Netter and John Reimold (15.1 ppg) have been the main offensive options for BG all season, the team may have received a hint of things to come during Wednesday’s game, when freshman guard Ronald Lewis scored a career-high 29 points, emerging as a legitimate threat from the floor and the foul line. With Mattox done for the year, Lewis and his former high school teammate Raheem Moss will be seeing even more court time during this final week of the regular season. Their performances could set a tone not only for the upcoming MAC tournament, but also for the way the Falcon line-up shakes out for 2003-2004.

In the meantime, BG’s focus is firmly on defeating Miami and getting back in the win column. A victory would mark the 100th in Dakich’s coaching career, but more importantly perhaps, he’ll be able to leave the month of February behind him.