Yes, BG lost their 17th straight to the Akron Zips. On the way, however, they played their best game of the season. Their pre-conference season was pretty lackluster---there were some close losses and a couple decent wins, but overall a team that seemed to be about what they were projected to be, which would be a road team in the MAC tourney.
That's still probable. But the Falcons did put together an effective performance on the court at Akron last night, and if that can be built on, then we might be seeing the start of a resurgence of Falcon men's basketball.
The final score was 89-84. The game had a lot of streaks, but BG succeeded in never letting Akron get out of touch and therefore was able to keep the game as close as it was. BG broke out to an 8-0 lead, but then Akron came back to lead 18-11. BG had it back to 20-19 with about 8 minutes left in the first half and took a 31-30 lead with about 3 minutes left. Akron finished the half only up 2.
The second half started with much of the same. Four minutes in the game was tied. The Zips went on a 13-2 run to go up by 11 points, but then BG went on an 11-1 run to get it back to 1 with about 9 minutes left. The Zips then did what they do, which is to take advantage of 2 BG turnovers and get a little mini run to go up 7 with 6 minutes left. They had the lead up to 10 with 4 minutes left, but the Falcons continued to battle. Just inside 2 minutes, Matt Fox drilled a 3 to cut the lead to 4 and then Caldwell got a steal and BG had a chance to make it interesting. Caldwell fired a transition 3 that didn't go down and from there Akron ground out the win. BG never had the ball with a one-possession deficit in the last 2 minutes.
So, look. Akron led for 32 minutes of the game and clearly is the better team. But, it was BG's best performance to date and if that kind of thing can be strung together for more than one game, BG has a shot to poach some wins, starting Saturday.
The key thing above all else was the play of Demajeo Wiggins. If he can continue to grow as a player--and he has shown growth--this is the type of player you can build on. He had 21 points--shooting 10 of 17 from the field, which is 58%. Coach said after the game that they challenge him to shoot 60%. If he can get that kind of percentage and shot volume in the post, he changes our offense. He has a really nice baby hook move using his body for space. He also had 8 rebounds.
The second key was that BG's starters actually produced. All were in double figures. Denny was 16 on 6 of 10. Lillard had 16 on 5 of 7 and Ali had 16 on 6 of 9. Alcegaire scored 10 on 4 of 7. BG's freshmen were a little less productive, but Coach said they played hard with their minutes and he continues to be pleased with their progress.
From a team standpoint, the game was played at 71 possessions, which favors BG slightly. Still, a lot of points were scored for a 71 possession game. BG had 1.18 points per possession, their best offensive game of the year and it isn't really close. Now, the problem is that Akron scored 1.25 points per possession. BG only allowed more to UC. The Zips are a really good offensive team, though, and well-coached. Coach said BG had Johnson confused in the first half with double teams but the Zips adjusted better than BG and Johnson was able to pass the ball out of the post.
Here are the numbers for the BG. With the exception of Norfolk State, this was BG's best shooting game of the year. BG shot 54% overall. They were weak on 3FGs, trying only 16 and making 4. So, if you aren't going to be great on the 3FG, then you need to be good at your 2FG. BG shot 64% from 2FG, which is the second-highest of the Huger era.
Now Akron shot even better. That's the best any team has shot against us in the Huger era. They shot 57% overall and 45% from 3. However, they did a poor job taking care of the ball, and those extra possessions kept BG in the game. As you can see, they had a big advantage on the boards and made 5 more FTs than BG did. (The Falcons did convert 14 of 17 at the line).
So I guess if you want to look at this from the negative, BG had some issues playing defense. Still, Akron is really good on offense. Most of all, BG got a complete performance out of everyone on the floor, especially the starters. If some of those players can string games together--especially Lillard, Ali and Denny--then I think the Falcons are at least competitive. If Wiggins continues to grow, there are going to be open spaces on the floor.