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February 22, 2024

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Off the Dribble: Falcons holding their ground with eight games remaining

Jack Rintamaa
DaJion Humphrey (3) playing physical defense in the paint

After picking up a victory against Ball State (12-11, 4-7 MAC) on Tuesday, Jan. 30, following back-to-back losses against Kent State (12-11, 5-6 MAC) and Toledo (15-8, 9-2 MAC), the Bowling Green men’s basketball team (16-7, 7-4 MAC) returned to the Stroh Center for a two-game homestand, aiming to get back to their winning ways.  

Once the dust settled, the result was a team treading water and trying to hold their ground as one of the top squads in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).  

The Falcons started the homestand with a matchup against Central Michigan (13-10, 8-3 MAC) on Saturday, in a matchup between two of the top teams in the conference.  

Central Michigan finished regulation on a 5-0 run, forcing overtime. Although BG built up a five-point advantage in the extra period, CMU battled their way back, forcing double-overtime and escaping Bowling Green with a 77-76 victory in BG’s first double-overtime contest since the 2016-2017 season.  

The Falcons struggled shooting the entire game against the Chippewas.  

BGSU shot just 32.9% (24-73) from the field, 21.2% (7-33) on three-pointers and 65.6% (21-32) on free throws. However, the Falcons stayed in the game by taking care of the ball, only committing three turnovers, the fewest in a game this season.  

“Obviously, a disappointing performance tonight. We hung in there, gave ourselves a chance to win despite not playing very well,” head coach Todd Simon said postgame. “Luckily, we took care of the ball, which gave us an opportunity.”  

BG’s defense also struggled against Central Michigan, which has become more common during conference play compared to earlier in the season.  

The Falcons allowed the Chippewas to shoot 50.8% (31-61) from the field and 38.5% (5-13) from beyond the arc.  

“Just, all-around, an unacceptable effort defensively, particularly on the perimeter, and we can’t guard like that and dig ourselves holes,” Simon said. “Offensively, the shot-making disappeared, and that puts a lot of pressure on you.”  

Following the deflating loss against CMU, the Orange and Brown rebounded on Tuesday night with an 87-73 victory against the last-place Buffalo Bulls.  

The victory secured the most home wins (10), the best overall record through 23 games and the best conference record through 11 MAC games since the 2019-2020 season.  

“Good bounce back coming off a heartbreaker to Central Michigan. We wanted to shore up a few things, and I thought we responded very well on some things we challenged the team on,” Simon said postgame. “Having the lead for 31 minutes, you’re starting to play from ahead and not relinquishing things, and that was an emphasis we really had.”  

The Falcons had an efficient shooting night, making 54.1% (33-61) of their field goal attempts, the best mark during conference play, and 89.5% (17-19) of their free throw attempts, the best mark this season. BG also recorded 19 assists, one shy of their season-high.  

“We played much faster. We shared the ball, obviously, with 19 assists. We attacked the paint; we didn’t settle for shots the defense wanted to give us. We wanted to dictate the terms of what shot we were going to get, and I thought that showed a little bit,” Simon said. “We made 89% from the free throw line. So, things were looking a little more cleaned up from the last couple of times out.”  

While BGSU struggled shooting from deep again, making just 26.7% (4-15) of their three-point attempts, they switched focus and attacked the rim, outscoring the Bulls in the paint 56-34.  

“Our three-pointers, the ones we took last game especially, I feel like we’re settling a lot. Rather than the defense work, we’re just giving them what they want us to shoot,” senior guard Trey Thomas said postgame. “So, this game, we really harped on trying to get to the paint. We know we can shoot threes, but when we get to the paint, everything opens up, and we have wide-open layups and floaters.”  

The Falcons continue to play shorthanded due to injuries. However, multiple players have elevated their games recently, most notably junior guard Marcus Hill and senior forward Rashaun Agee.  

“The way they score the ball, Rashaun, especially in the paint and Marcus all over the floor,” Thomas said. “So, just having those dynamic scorers is what really helps us win games.”  

Hill continues to be a nightmare for conference opponents in his first season at the Division I level. 

Against CMU, he finished with a team-high 22 points, a career-high seven assists and seven rebounds.   

The Rockford, Illinois, native followed that performance up with a team-high 27 points, six rebounds and four assists against Buffalo.  

Hill, who leads the MAC and ranks ninth in the country with 21.5 points per game, has scored at least 20 points in eight straight contests, the longest active streak and tied for the longest streak in the nation this season.  

Meanwhile, Agee continues to dominate for the Falcons.  

After finishing with 20 points and a team-high 14 rebounds against the Chippewas, Agee recorded 18 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds against the Bulls.   

The Chicago, Illinois, native, who leads the MAC with 81 offensive rebounds and ranks second in the conference with 9.3 rebounds per game and 59.6% shooting from the field, has scored double-digit points in 15 consecutive games, recording 11 double-doubles during that span.  

“He’s got a relentless motor. He does it without fouling, and he’s very smart. Offensive rebounding is so much more than going after every ball, which is very hard to do when the other team is not trying to let you get them,” Simon said. “He’s very smart in his ability to get his hands on rebounds. But we need every one of those possessions; it creates a ton of pressure on the opposing team.”  

On the surface, the win against Buffalo might not seem like a big deal.  

Yes, the Bulls have won just two games this season and have lost 18 of their last 19 contests.  

However, the Falcons needed a dominant win. Coming into the contest against UB, Bowling Green had lost three out of their past four games, including an overtime loss, double-overtime loss and blowout defeat against their rivals.  

The win against Buffalo also saw BG embrace their identity: a fast-paced, transition offense.  

“I feel like the past couple of games, we weren’t playing at our pace. Our pace is fast, and our best offense is getting it up the floor,” Thomas said. “Us pushing the ball is what really gets us that open look. When we push the ball, the floor opens us; we have our shooters running, and we have our bigs running to the paint, so pushing the ball really opens up our whole offense.”  

While they have suffered some deflating defeats in the past couple of weeks, BG keeps battling back, displaying their resilience and ability to overcome adversity.   

After leading the MAC going into conference play, the Falcons have fallen to fourth in the standings.  

They are also shorthanded, with junior guard DJ Smith, senior guard Da’Shawn Phillip, redshirt freshman forward Jamai Felt and senior forward Sam Towns currently out with injuries. 

The season is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Simon and the Falcons realize this, and with eight games remaining in the regular season, they are focused on one thing: winning.  

“The Falcon Fanatics, the student body, the band; they’re so good and supportive. The community is so good and supportive. We want to win for them; we want to make people proud,” Simon said. “That is something that is very important to us. We are proud to wear Bowling Green orange; we want to deliver a winner here. The streak of 55 years from going to the dance. Those are the things we’re working towards, and we’re doing it for Bowling Green.”  

Next up, the orange and brown will begin a three-game road trip with a matchup against Louisiana in the second round of the MAC-Sun Belt Conference Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 11. Tip-off against the Ragin’ Cajuns is set for 3 p.m.  

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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