BY MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, Ohio – Coming into his team’s rematch with the Miami RedHawks Saturday, Bowling Green head coach Chris Jans had a feeling sophomore guard Zach Denny would have a good game.
While it might not have appeared that way early, Denny flourished down the stretch as Bowling Green fought back from an 11-point deficit to post a 62-57 win over MU.
“I told our staff before the game that Zack Denny was going to play well today,” Jans said. “He had two really good days of practice (and) he and I had a very productive individual meeting. His mind is right, and I could sense it.”
Jans also noted Denny “didn’t have a very good outing against Miami 10 days ago, and he wanted to rectify that.”
Denny, who finished with a game-high 17, had just four points at the halftime break. Bowling Green, however, owned a 31-27 advantage. That lead disappeared relatively quickly as the Falcons (19-8, 11-5 MAC) failed to score a single second half point until Jehvon Clarke’s jumper at 10:10.
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Denny started the Falcons decisive rally with a trey. BGSU made three triples on the day, and all three came from Denny during a 21-5 Falcons run.
“Once I saw the first one go through the net, my confidence rose a lot and the rest of the game I felt good about my shot,” said the 6-2 sophomore.
His three-ball put the visitors in front 50-49. After Chris Bryant scored on a layup for Miami, Denny hit another trey to give Bowling Green the lead for good. Denny (12) and Spencer Parker (9) accounted for 22 of the visitors’ final 26 points.
“We couldn’t handle them down the stretch,” Miami coach John Cooper said. “I thought Parker was terrific down the stretch for them and then, of course, Zach Denny steps up and hits two big threes.”
A Clarke jumper with 54 ticks left put BGSU up 55-51. Denny added a free throw to make it a five point lead and the Falcons held MU off with 5-of-6 from the line before the final horn.
“I’m really proud of their resolve,” Jans said. “It would have been really easy to ‘go south’ on the road (after being) down 10 or 11.
Miami, which had won four straight – including a matchup at Bowling Green – had been thriving at the free throw line. The RedHawks, however, finished with 8-of-11 at the stripe. Bowling Green, meanwhile, connected on 19-of-24.
“We only got to the foul line (for 11 shots). I don’t think we did a good enough job of pushing the issue when we were in the bonus for long stretches of the game,” Cooper said.
Turnovers also hurt the hosts. Although BG held a modest 16-12 edge in points off turnovers, Miami had 17 total turnovers – some of which short-circuited the RedHawks offensive efforts.
“I thought the turnovers, obviously, created an issue for us,” Cooper said. “Throughout the course of the game, I felt like we just couldn’t get to where we wanted to be offensively.”
Miami actually had more field goals, making 23-of-48 (47.9 percent) while Bowling Green hit 20-of-48 (41.7%). Both teams had three 3-pointers.
Both teams held leads and there were eight ties in the first half. Center Josh Gomez broke the last deadlock (25-25) with a layup at the 2:19 mark. Holmes added a pair of free throws and dunk before Washington hit a jumper for Miami to close the opening stanza.
Bowling Green outscored Miami 9-2 on points off turnovers during the first half.
With the victory, Bowling Green (19-8, 11-5) remains atop the MAC East stayed in striking distance of overall MAC leader Central Michigan.
“It was crucial, and everybody knew it,” Jans said of the Miami matchup. “If we lost this game, we’re behind the eight ball.”
Losing to the RedHawks at home simply raised the reward.
“We just didn’t have the same giddy-up that we normally do,” Jans said of the first matchup. “Obviously, this time it was easy to motivate them. They had beat us handily at our place. They had won four in a row against quality competition. I thought we were much more focused and ready to play today.”
Kent State at Bowling Green (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
Akron at Miami (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)