Thursday, February 09, 2012

Falcons Take Care of Business, Beat Ball State

On a night when the MAC West hosted all six cross over games and still only won 2, the BG Falcons were heading in a road game you almost had to have.  You know things are going to get tougher in the coming weeks, and the teams you are racing with are winning like crazy right now, so you had to have it.

And they got it.  It represents the Falcon's first 3-game winning streak since last season's cross-over stretch.  (UT, EMU, NIU).  But, with two road wins against the putative best teams in the West are nice to have.  Last night's game was a good victory.  It was a tight game the whole way, neither team had a huge advantage, and yet BG was the team that made the plays in the final few minutes to win the game.

For example....after BG had held the lead for 3-4 minutes, BSU tied the game with about 3 minutes left in the game.  (48-48).  Dee Brown came down and hit a 3.  On the other hand, Cam Black got a block on Jarrod Jones (Todd Walker called it as two blocks, though that did not show up in the stats) and then BG came down and Brown drained another 3.  In 1:05 of elapsed time, BG had opened a 6-point lead on 2 shots and a stop.

That's how teams win games that are close.  In fact, Ball State never again had the ball with a chance to tie the game on one possession.  BG ground it out, made 7 out of 8 free throws in the last minute, and left with a 7 point win, 61-54.

With that, the Falcons move into 5th in the MAC.  Certainly, the teams from the West get an advantage--they get to play each other over the last 6 games--but even having said that, BG needs to take a small advantage in the standings.

The key for BG has been defense.  BG held Ball State to .86 points per possession, which is the 4th best MAC defensive performance of the season, with the only better ones being OU, NIU and WMU.  BG has only lost one game when it defended at least that well all season (WKU).  In this particular game, that breaks out to BG having a big advantage in forcing turnovers.

The shooting was pretty even, rebounding slightly better for Ball State, and Free Throws were even for most of the game until the end...really, BG's defensive efficiency rested on getting the turnover, which is a possession where almost always the offense has no chance to score.  Essentially, that gave BG five extra possessions at .97 points per possession.

Speaking of which, BG had a good but not great offensive game.  We're typically over a point a possession. We shot a little bit worse than we normally do, especially during a cold stretch in the early second half.  Having said that, the key thing about basketball is if you are defending well, then you are always in position for Dee Brown to win the game late with two shots....and if you allow yourself to be guarded, you are always in the position for the other team to win the game late with two shots.

Anyway, the big individual night belonged to A'uston Calhoun who went off for 27 points on 52% shooting and 9 rebounds.  I will say this, you just always sense that Calhoun has this kind of game in him every night (not a 27 point night, but an 18/8 game) and sometimes he is feeling it and sometimes he is not.  There is no doubt that he is getting serious double coverage--in fact, Coach Orr gave Calhoun credited for creating the space for one of Brown's game-deciding 3s.

One thing is that Calhoun seems to be better at the line.  If we can get the ball inside to him, he will get fouled if nothing else, and at 75% free throws, he becomes an offensive force just by that.  I honestly don't know if we just aren't good at getting the ball in there or whether there are some games he is much better than he is in other games....but I do think that if we are going to make a run through the East, we need 18/8 numbers out of him consistently.  I think it is too hard for us to win games on the perimeter.

Dee Brown had 12 and 5 assists.  Crawford only scored 5 and had 6 assists and 4 turnovers.  Scott Thomas is in a shooting slump, though he did contribute 3 assists and 4 steals.  This happens, he will find the touch again.

And, Cam Black played 29 minutes, a season high.  As you can see, after troughing through December he is seeing more minutes.  His stats line is never overwhelming, but there are things you can do in basketball that you can't count, and I'm guessing he was doing them last night.

So, with a 3-game winning streak, BG now girds itself for the first visit of the hated Rockets to the Stroh Center. A couple things...they beat OU at Savage last night, and I think they are improving.  (BG beat OU in BG, too, FWIW).  They are the only West team to win 2 cross-over games.  Rian Pearson is OMG!  And they are the Rockets.

First, on the heels of this winning streak, it would be great to set an early Stroh Center standard with a big, loud crowd...our guys deserve it and so do the Rockets.  And, it would be great for the Falcons to make that winning streak 4.  We are really on a knife's edge, which is what makes the conference season so compelling.

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