And suddenly this has gotten very interesting.
For the first time in MAC history, the #12 seed is going to play in semi-finals...as BG pulled its second straight upset, beating #4 CMU 62-59. It was one of those nights...CMU controlled the game almost the whole way...from 14 minutes left in the first half until Antwon Lillard nailed a huge jumper with :13 left to play in the game.
That's pretty good.
More on that later.
With 8:00 left, CMU led by 8 and any observer would have thought things were going more or less the way they were supposed to. But BG picked up an all-freshman run from Wiggins (2FG) and Willard (3FG) to get the lead down to 3 with 6 left. BG kept battling and with 4:21 left had cut the lead to 1.
From here on in everything was a key sequence. CMU had 2 FTS, they missed them both, got the long rebound, got fouled again and made only 1 of 2, a big scoring chance that only left the score at +2 with 3:27 left.
Then Chris Fowler got a steal and Rayson was fouled and he only made 1 of 2. CMU-the best FT shooting team in the MAC--was missing opportunities to close BG out with these FTs.
Still, they were up 3 with 2:40 left to go. BG missed a shot, fouled getting the rebound and again CMU split the pair, now up 4 with 1:57 left.
From there, BG turned the tables. Lillard nailed a 3FG with 1:37 left to cut the lead to 1. CMU turned the ball over and Lillard was fouled. BG was still only in the bonus and Lillard missed the front end.
This time, CMU did extend the lead with a Simon 2FG to make it +3 with :42 left.
With :30 left, Antwon Lillard missed a shot but he was there for the tip-in WITH THE FOUL. With :29 left, though, he again missed his FT and BG was down 1. BG had to foul and did...Simmons again split the pair to leave CMU only up 2.
BG called time-out with :18 left. The Falcons have struggled on big possessions off timeouts for years and as recently as the Buffalo game, but here Coach Huger went with the hot hand, as Lillard stepped back with 12 left and stroked a 3 that had nothing but net and gave BG the lead and made CMU pay the price for its poor execution and FT shooting down the stretch.
CMU ran upcourt without a timeout but lost the ball out of bounds and BG had it back (after a video review). Ali was fouled, converted both FTs and BG had the win by 3.
It was fantastic and it is so great to see our boys getting to celebrate after a long season where they really stuck to it and now they are playing in the conference semi-finals.
BG is the first 12 seed to get to the semi-final.
It is BG's first trip to the semis since 2009
It is the first time BG has won 2 games in the MAC tourney since 2002.
And BG is playing well. Who knows? Akron is next...we know how that has gone, but both of the teams BG has beaten to date beat them twice during the season, so why not turn our sights on a team that has beaten us for 10 years?
Why not indeed.
The key to the game was getting stops. CMU has the 2nd best offense in the MAC (by efficiency), but BG held them to 1 point per possession...below average and more than .1 points per possession below their average. The key was shooting. CMU shot only 41% for the game and made only 4 of 20 3FGs, which is not how their attack is supposed to work. Meanwhile, BG shot 50% overall and 5 of 13 from 3FGs....if you had thought BG was going to make more 3 FGs than CMU, I think a lot of people would have taken the other side of that bet.
That was enough to balance out a night where BG gave up +3 turnovers and was smoked on the boards. Much as BG saw in the 2nd BG-CMU game, though, CMU was unable to convert those offensive rebounds to baskets....13 OREB and 13 2nd chance points. Finally, CMU was only +2 at the line, going a very poor and unusual 13-24 while BG 11 of 18.
The leader of the Falcons was FR Antwon Lillard, playing in his hometown. Lillard scored a career-high 26, including the final 8 points of the game. He shot 8 of 12 and 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and 5 of 8 from the line. That's an offensive stat line. He also added 5 rebounds, tied for team-high.
The only other double-figure scorer was Damajeo Wiggins, with 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting and 4 rebounds. Alcegaire had 5 rebounds and Ali had 5 assists. Each one of the names in the paragraph represents a guy who didn't play for BG last year. They've gradually taken over more and more time from the returning players, and you can certainly see it in the box score from this game.
So, a huge win for BG. This is a hugely unexpected run of success for our guys, but the past is past. Right now, BG is two wins from snapping that 48-year NCAA drought, and it comes down to 2 games and that's it.
Going to be fun to watch tomorrow. Enjoy the ride.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.