|Photo from BGSU.|
Also, it is nice to get a solid win over a team that beat us last year and probably is better than they were last year, though that will reveal itself out over time. Last year, it was the signal to a very poor start, one that doomed BG to a losing season...this year, we needed to show that we are improved, and based on this first measuring stick, we were.
It was our biggest crowd in 6 years, since a game against Miami in the DD era, so that's pretty impressive. Coach said it played a big role. I'm glad we won for the big crowd, and it would be great to see them back again as the season rolls along.
The game flow was very interesting. BG came up very strongly on defense, and Howard did not make a field goal for more than the first 10 minutes of the game. At that point, BG was up 15-4 and then after a Kraus 3, BG was up 18-6. Howard then went on a 9 point run to narrow the gap to 18-15 with about 3 left in the first half, but the Falcons responded with a run of their own to get the lead back to 9 to end the first half.
BG had its own scoring problems coming out of the locker room and Howard cut the lead back to 3 early in the second half. At this point, I think the fans were getting pretty restless, since a game where one team got 2 points in 10 minutes was back to a one possession game. But the Falcons did what winning teams do, and had the lead back in double digits two minutes later and from there it was never closer than 7 again and BG cruised home for the win. From the 11 minute mark to the end, Howard was not closer than 10 points.
A look at the numbers. First, when looking at the game stats, two things need to be kept in perspective. There were only 61 possessions in the game, which is a pretty slow pace, and when you look at Howard's offensive rebounds, keep in mind they missed a bunch of shots so there were boards available.
BG scored 1.03 points per possession, which is a slight improvement over last season (.96 for the year) though not a show stopping output. The key was on defense, where Howard scored only .78 points per possession, which is BG's best defensive performance in a D1 game since the St. Louis game two years ago.
As you can see, BG didn't have a great shooting game, but we did shoot better than Howard did. The Falcons shot over 50% in the second half, and held Howard under 40% for the game on all field goals. When you look at effective field goal percent, the gap narrows a bit because BG did not shoot the 3 very well.
The key part of the defensive performance was the turnovers. Howard had turnovers on 31% of their possessions and about half of those were on BG steals. So, Howard did not shoot well in a game where 1/3 of the time they didn't even get a shot.
The story of the offensive rebounds is not quite what you might think. Howard did dominate the rebounding for the game, but their offensive rebounds are about 36% which is just a little bit above normal--which is 33%. The real story is that BG was getting very few offensive rebounds.
Finally, the Falcons did a good job at the line. BG got to the line 5 more times and hit 74%, which is right about what we need, while Howard got to the line less and shot 61%. So, advantage Falcons.
A few other observations.
BG won the game without anything much from its two inside players, at least on the stat sheet. Coach said Cam Black played good defense.
Craig Sealey made a really nice contribution. He had 13 points on 5-9 shooting, and a couple of those came at times when the team needed a basket. He also had 6 rebounds and played in the paint quite a bit.
Given the struggles for Calhoun and Black, neither of whom played more than 24 minutes, I was surprised Oglesby didn't play more.
Scott Thomas led the team in scoring and rebounding.
Jordan Crawford was certainly effective, 13 points, 4 assists and 4 turnovers. He did not shoot real well, though he did have a couple of show stopping layups off the glass.
BG essentially used a 7 man rotation...the starters, and then Sealey and Kraus. I was a little surprised we didn't run deeper, but Coach said after the game that the team's veterans are the foundation of the club.
So, the Stroh Center opens with a win, BG's 20th straight win in a home opener. I think the victory and how it was won was encouraging for the team, though we still wait to see how we fare in other tests. I said in my preview that we had to play better defense, and I think that's true. We talked about defense last year, but we were an average MAC defensive team. If we're going to be a staunch defensive team, this was what we need to see.