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September 21, 2023

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Women beat Akron, move to No. 1 in MAC East

With the top spot in the MAC East up for grabs, the Falcons took their opportunity Wednesday night and defeated Akron 74-61.

“Tonight it wasn’t about going out and showing Akron we could win,” BG forward Alexis Rogers said. “It was about laying our game because last game we got out of playing BG basketball.”

The Zips came into the game leading the MAC East by one game, and were ranked in the top 25 nationally in five offensive categories.

However, the stats stayed on paper as the Zips were unable to overcome a determined Falcons’ team that is used to being number one, as BG has won the MAC the past eight seasons.

“It’s something as an upperclassman [that] we are used to,” Havel said. “I mean we work hard and we are used to being on top, so having to fight back really shows our character.”

Havel opened the first half with a three-pointer and would add two more behind the arc later in the game, finishing with 13 total points and five rebounds.

“I know my coach and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me,” Havel said. “I need to have more confidence in myself, but I think I am shooting a lot more and it’s happening to go in so I’m going to keep shooting it until that stops.”

The first half was a power struggle, the game going back and forth between the two teams. In total, the game was tied at six different marks and the lead changed four times.

Despite a strong first-half showing from Akron’s Sina King, who recorded nine points and eight rebounds before the half, BG led 37-31 and kept the lead, as high as 18 points late in the second half, for the rest of the game.

BG’s Alexis Rogers went into half with just two points, but finished the game with 12 and recorded a double-double thanks to 12 rebounds.

“I adjusted my mask a little bit and eventually I still had the same moves in the second half and they started falling for me,” said Rogers. “I tried not to get too down on myself so I kept shooting the ball, and they started falling.”

The Akron game marked the third straight game Rogers has been wearing a face mask to protect her nose. Rogers will likely be in it the remainder of the season, and was fitted for a custom mask.

“I asked for a camo one,” Rogers said jokingly. “I’m not sure if I’m going to get that though.”

Rogers’ mask hasn’t seemed to slow her ability to perform, however, a camo mask wouldn’t hurt her chances in the paint.

Akron’s three biggest scorers, Rachel Tecca, Hanna Luburgh and King, finished with 13, 15 and nine points respectively. King also joined Rogers with a double-double of her own with 10 rebounds.

While the Zips came in 11th in the country in scoring offense, BG outshot Akron 46 to 33 percent.

The Falcons are 17-1 when scoring over 60 points, the lone loss coming against the Zips earlier this season. When scoring under 60 points, however, BG has yet to win a game this season.

Akron came into the game ranking national in scoring offense (11th), rebound margin (15th), assists per game (6th), personal fouls per game (14th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (13th). BG is not ranked in the top 25 in any of these statistics.

“We are all competitors and we look at the stats whether Coach [Roos] brings it up or not,” BG forward Danielle Havel said. “We all talk about it, and we knew what this meant to get this win.”

The Zips also brought the nation’s leader in assists per game in Kacie Cassell, who averages 7.8 a game. She had five against the Falcons on Wednesday night.

With the win, the Falcons and Akron share the top spot in the MAC East with identical 17-8 (8-4) records, each defeating the other on its respective home court.

“Our kids look at the standings board in the locker room every day and they see that we were one game behind Akron and one game ahead of Miami,” coach Jennifer Roos said. “Our goals in all my years being here have always been the same, you want to be playing your best at the end of February and beginning of March.”

BG will travel to Miami next, who sits just behind both Akron and the Falcons in a matchup that will prove just as important. The Falcons are looking for a first-round home court in the MAC tournament.

It’s better to be the team chasing and not being chased, Roos said.

“That bullseye on your back weighs a little bit more than what most people realize,” Roos said. “But don’t get me wrong, it’s a good pressure to have. It’s a positive motivator.”

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