Bowling Green, Ohio - The Bowling Green Falcons poured in a season-high 88 points on 54.9 percent shooting to shoot down the No. 12-seeded Ball State Cardinals 88-75 on Monday night at the Stroh Center in the first round of the 2015 MAC Men's Basketball Championship Tournament.
Bowling Green (20-10, 11-7 MAC) advances to second round play and will face No. 8 seed Eastern Michigan, which pulled out an overtime win over Miami Monday. BGSU’s victory marks the first time the Falcons have reached 20 wins in a season since a 24-win campaign back in 2001-02. Ball State, meanwhile, finishes the 2014-15 season on a 17-game losing streak. The Cardinals were 7-23 overall (2-16 MAC).
Despite playing without First-Team All-MAC selection Richaun Holmes, the Falcons had four players in double figures led by the senior duo of Anthony Henderson and Jehvon Clarke. Henderson totaled 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting overall for the contest, while Clarke tallied 19 points and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Zack Denny finished with 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from behind the three-point arc, while Delvin Dickerson added 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting before fouling out in the second half.
Ball State also had four players in double figures led by Bo Calhoun's team-high 17 points and five rebounds off the bench. Jeremiah Davis chipped in with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while Sean Sellers and Franko House finished the game with 13 and 10 points apiece, respectively.
Not only did Bowling Green shoot a season-high 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from the field overall in Monday’s contest, it hit 9-of-18 (50%) from beyond the arc and 23-of -27 (85.2 percent) from the foul line. BGSU also dished out 16 assists and committed only seven turnovers for the full 40 minutes of play.
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“Certainly that first half, I couldn’t ask for anything more. We played with urgency, we played offensively the way that any coach would want their team to play. We talked at halftime that one of two things was going to happen: The lead was going to get to 20 and it would be a fun last 15 minutes, or it would go back to 10 and we would have a ball game.”
The Cardinals were actually able to claw back to within three points midway through the final stanza, and Jans applauded the visitors’ efforts.
“A lot of the credit has to go to Coach Whitford, his staff and the players. On the road down 16 at the half, you know things could have easily gone south, but they didn’t. They deserve a lot of credit for the way they continued to fight and scratch and claw, but in the end we were able to fight them off and get the win.”
After the Cardinals opened up the game with a layup off the block from House, the game saw four ties and a lead change until a three-pointer from Dickerson put the Falcons in front at 12-9 at the 14:09 mark.
BGSU did not look back and led the rest of the way as Dickerson followed with two free throws, while Jovan Austin nailed a three-pointer from the right wing to give the Falcons a six-point lead at 17-11 with 13:02 to play in the first half.
For every Ball State basket, the Falcons had an answer as BGSU pushed its lead out to as high as eight on three different occasions until a layup from Josh Gomez, who made his first career start, and two more free throws from Dickerson increased the home team's lead to double digits at 32-22 with 6:43 on the first half game clock.
A Henderson three-pointer at the 5:02 mark jump-started an offensive surge for the Falcons, who outscored Ball State 16-9 over the final five minutes of the opening frame, highlighted by three-balls from Henderson and Denny, to take a 50-34 lead into the halftime break.
With the best offensive scoring output for a single half of the season at 50 points and a 16-point lead, the Falcons struggled on both ends of the floor out of the halftime intermission. Ball State ran off eight straight points to get back to within eight points at 50-42 with 17:50 to play in the contest.
A jumper from Henderson ended the Cardinals' run, yet the visitors in red refused to go away and battled to cut the Falcons lead to three at 61-58 on a three-pointer from Davis at the 9:00 mark of the second half.
Three straight free throws from David Joseph, who had a game-high five assists, and Spencer Parker righted the ship for the Falcons, as BGSU used a 9-2 spurt to put the lead back at double digits at 70-60 on a rebound and layup from Denny with 5:34 left on the game clock.
Just over two and a half minutes later, Ball State saw a three-pointer off the left wing from Calhoun put the visitors down just six once again, this time at 78-72 with 2:51 to go in the game.
However, the Falcons quickly answered with a three-pointer of their own from Denny and then went a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line over the final 1:22 of the game to pull away late and seal the 88-75 first round win.
BGSU out-rebounded Ball State 31-22 and held a 14-9 edge in second chance points. The Falcons also outscored Ball State 35-25 in bench points.
(Courtesy of BGSU Athletics/MRO Edit)