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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Fight punctuates ugly loss

TOLEDO — Rumors of the death of the Bowling Green-Toledo basketball rivalry are greatly exaggerated. The season for BG, on the other hand, may be ready for life support.

A fight midway through the second half of last night’s BG-Toledo game at Savage Hall fanned the rivalry’s flames, got Toledo player Milo Kirsh and BG assistant coach Artie Pepelea ejected and ultimately sent the two teams in opposite directions. The inspired Rockets (10-11, 4-7 MAC) capitalized on the noticeably unraveled Falcons (10-11, 6-7 MAC) for a 73-59 victory.

With just under 11 minutes to play in the second half, an errant shot caromed off the BG rim and through the hands of several players. As the ball rolled around on the floor, players started crashing into each other and falling. Elbows and knees started flying in the scrum, and before anyone could gain control of the ball, players started losing their tempers.

The skirmish wasn’t much. A few flying fists, some yelling. Nobody was visibly injured. Both benches (save BG coaches Pepelea and Dan Dakich) stayed put. Even they came on the floor to help break it up.

What it did was send BG into discord. The Falcons emerged from the officials’ cool-down timeout with their teeth still clenched. Shots were rushed. Players pushed the ball up the floor recklessly and thrashed needlessly for rebounds underneath, dishing out contact and committing fouls.

“We lost out composure, we lost our intensity,” BG guard Cory Ryan said. “I don’t have a reason. [The fight] just got to us. It helped them and it hurt us.”

The fight didn’t come out of the blue. Animosity had been apparently building up throughout the game. BG’s Jabari Mattox and Ronald Lewis both had shots emphatically rejected by Toledo players beforehand. Ryan and Toledo’s Sammy Villegas received technical fouls for an unspecified incident at the end of the first half.

The wrestling match under the basket touched a match to a flammable situation. BG got burned. Toledo got a suntan. “It is always good to beat our rival,” Toledo’s Keith Triplett said. “I hope the rivalry took a step up.”

The sideshows took away from great performances by Triplett and Ryan, who tied for the game high with 22 points. It was Ryan’s shooting touch that prevented Toledo from running away with the game in the second half, as he hit 3 of 6 three-pointers. He finished the game 5 for 8 from beyond the arc.

Triplett was living inside the three-point arc as much as Ryan was living outside it. Cutting to the basket, finding open guys and getting open himself, he was the main opportunist in Toledo’s second half, finishing with a game-high five assists.

Triplett paced four Rockets in double figures. John Reimold was the only other Falcon in double figures with 10.

As part of the possible fallout from the skirmish, Reimold commited two hard fouls within seconds of each other late in the game. Both times he and the player he fouled hit the ground. The second time was particularly violent and he and Toledo’s Ricardo Thomas locked legs and fell to the ground at midcourt when Reimold went for a steal. Reimold was charged with an intentional foul. It was his fifth personal foul, so the disqualification saved him from a technical foul.

There was one definite piece of fallout. Kirsh, under NCAA rules, will have to serve a one-game suspension for being ejected for fighting.

The loss capped a miserable month for the Falcons. Since a loss at Eastern Michigan Jan. 14, the Falcons fell from first to fourth place in the MAC West. Last night’s game was BG’s seventh loss in nine games, their fifth in six on the road, and dropped them under .500 for the first time since Dec. 21. With five conference games left in the season, the Falcons may be running out of time to right their ship.

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