Sunday, January 26, 2014

Falcons Continue to Confound, Lose to Miami

The Falcons are a tough team to figure out.  Lose at home to @WMU and @OU...lose at home to Miami.

The MAC is a little bit of a bizarro world situation this year.  Normally, winning on the road is all but impossible, but this year it is about 50/50...all 4 road teams won yesterday.

By their own admission, BG did not come out hungry against Miami, and that was the key difference in the game.

The loss ended BG's 3-game winning streak and leaves BG 3-3 in MAC play.

There were two key elements to the defeat.  The first is that BG did not defend well.  BG's winning formula has been to play adequate offense while providing MAC-leading defense.  Believe it or not, the offense did its part.  BG scored 1.02 points per possession, which is their highest total in a losing game this season.  The defense allowed Miami 1.09 points per possession, however, which is BG's 3rd worst defensive game of the season.  BG's offense is just not going to be able to win if the defense allows that kind of scoring.

The second was free throw.  Miami made 22 out of 26 free throws and BG only made 9 of 17...leaving the Falcons -13 in that stat alone.  BG had shot FTs well during that streak and did not in their home environment yesterday.

BG actually came out like they were ready to assert themselves.  BG ran out to a 7-2 lead.  The game was tied at 17 before the Falcons pushed it back out to 23-17 with about 5 minutes left in the first half.  From that point until the break, Miami was completely dominant, scoring 19 and holding 5 and taking an 8 point lead into the locker room.  That's a failure on both sides of the ball, you can't allow either of those things to happen.

That part of the game really set the tone for what followed.  Miami never trailed again and BG spent the 2nd half in chase mode.  Miami was still up 8 (47-39) with 13 left when BG went on a 6-0 run to get the lead to 2.  They needed a stop and Miami's Will Sullivan nailed a 3 to get it back to 5 and BG was never closer than 4 (and as far as 10) until there were :06 left and the issue was largely decided.

Miami shot the ball effectively, at 47% and 38% and both well above BG's defensive averages of 43%/31%.  It was a slow game at 64 possessions, so that impacts how you look at the overall stats.  Miami took average care of the ball, didn't do anything on the offensive boards and made a ridiculous number of free throws to put together their winning offensive approach.

Just one other note as it relates to BG's defense.  We noted in our preview that Will Sullivan was the best 3FG shooter by % in the MAC.  He was open way too often and made 4 out of 6, one of them at a critical juncture of the game.  You just have to know where that guy is when he is out there.

The Miami defensive strategy was clearly to clog up the middle.  In fact, this is the 2nd straight game that strategy has been employed.  When you have a player like Richaun Holmes, teams are going to try to take him away.  BG only shot 42% overall, but took a season-high 23 3FGs, making 10 of them (tying a season high).  So, in total, BG's outside play did respond reasonably well to the Miami strategy...some of those 3FGs were late when the issue was mostly decided, but having said that, I think BG took what Miami was giving them in the half court.

The undoing was the FTs, as mentioned previously.  BG was average in terms of turnovers and did a credible job on the offensive boards.  They did not get to the line enough and did not make them when they did get there, and that was the offensive flaw that cost them the game.

Individually, Jehvon Clarke had a career high 22 points on 8 of 16 and 4 of 8 shooting.  Made both HIS FTs and had 6 assists.  He did have 6 turnovers, ending his streak of strong A/T ratio games.  Still, people have been calling out for the guards to contribute when teams pack it in on Holmes, and Clarke did that.

Anthony Henderson contributed 15 points in less efficient manner, going 5 of 13 overall and a respectable 4 of 9 from 3.  No other Falcon ended up in double figures.  Holmes had 9 points but Parker really struggled at 2 of 7 shooting.  Black had 9 rebounds and Parker had 8.

So, it is a disappointing set back for the Falcons.  You can have  a poor defensive game once in a while, but the free throw thing is a chronic problem that is really disappointing.  This morning, BG is #340 in the nation in FT%.

Next up is a road rematch with EMU, which defeated BG in the league opener.  If you are trying to predict what is going to happen in the MAC this year, good luck.

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