Friday, February 21, 2020

MBB Preview: Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

BG returns back to action after its bye to host the Ohio U Bobcats on Saturday.

BG beat OU by 9 at the Convo...believe it or not, BG's biggest win in MAC play.  Even so, OU had the lead for the first 25 minutes of the game before the Falcons took control and put the game away.  It was never a one-possession game after the 8-minute mark of the second half.

OU is 5-8 in MAC play.  They have won three of their last four, though that includes Miami and WMU and CMU....all at home.  They lost @ Kent.  They are 1-5 in the MAC on the road, with the win at EMU.

Here's how it went in the first game.  As you can see, shooting was even.  BG won the game because of the extra possessions they generated on turnovers and on the offensive boards and having a net +1 advantage on FTs.  Turner had 29 and Frye had 19 for BG.  Vander Plas had 25 for OU and Preston had 15.  I don't have numbers on this but Vander Plas appears to save his productivity for when they play BG.

So, you have two teams that are basically scoring what they are allowing.  Basically, BG is 3rd in the MAC in offense and 9th in defense, while OU is 7th in offense and 6th in defense.

So, having established that OU is #6 in offense, how do they get there.  They are 5th in shooting and 9th in turnovers...which was reflected in the first game.  They are decent on the offensive boards and they are poor at getting to the line.  They are 6th in 3FG and 7th in 2FG and 9th in FTs.  BG is last in the MAC in forcing turnovers, so if that holds it would help OU produce more. 

Flipping it around, things are pretty evenly matched here. OU is 5th forcing turnovers and BG is #1 at preventing them, so that's an issue.  Also, OU is #1 on their defensive boards.  BG had a large number of offensive boards in the first game, so that's something to watch.  OU doesn't give up a ton of FTs, but their opponents are making 76% of it--that's the highest in the MAC.  Nothing OU can do about it, but it makes it harder to win.

Same as shown in our first meeting, Ben Vander Plas and and Jason Preston lead OU in scoring.  Vander Plas is scoring 17 PPG, shooting 48% and 33% with 7.2 RPG, a team high.  Preston has scored 16 PPG on 51% and 37% shooting, making him the more efficient player.  He's 2jnd on the team in 6.8 RPG and leads the MAC with 7.3 APG and is second in A/TO ratio. (Laster is #1).  Both of these players are sophomores.

Dartis, a senior, is scoring 12.6 PPG, shooting 38% on mostly 3FGs.  Sylvester Ogbonda also gets 6.6 rebounds.

So, based on what has happened this year, BG should win this game and hit 11 for the season, a key step in their drive for a bye.  They are also in the running for the regular-season title, for which a win is essential. 

Dylan Frye will be back.  It will be interesting to see how the team reacts and how Dylan reacts.  Players miss a couple games with injuries all the time, but this is a little different.  Hopefully he's refreshed and we get the guy back who started the season and the team molds back around him.  If so, this game should be a W.  They are all needed.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Another Plot Twist in MBB...Frye is back

Well, this is a wow. I heard Todd Walker in our most recent game make some cryptic reference to the possible temporary nature of Frye's situation...don't remember exactly what he said, but Dylan Frye is back and will be dressed and available to play Saturday against OU.

Hang on kids.

Update: Frye's statement

Monday, February 17, 2020

MBB Taking a Breath

We've hit the bye week, no game tomorrow.  I think it's a good time to look at the success we are having and put it in a little context.  Because we are seeing something we have not seen in a long time at Bowling Green, and something we hope can continue.

The Falcons are 19-7.  That's (obviously) one win from 20.  That would put BG over 20 for two straight seasons.

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1949...a team that was ranked #10 in the AP Poll.

Many of you know that I tend to use the WVU year as a dividing line for our program.  Not that WVU caused what followed, but it's a clear line in the geologic record.  When WVU happens, we are 24-9 and feeling robbed of an at-large bid.

Since then, in 17 seasons coming into this year

  • Four winning seasons
  • No (ZERO) back to back winning seasons
  • One MAC Final appearance (last year)
  • Two 20-win seasons (one last year)
  • Two tournament byes (one last year)
  • One regular season title

It's just a sad story.  That's 15 years where this program simply lagged behind the others in our conference.

In the last two years:

  • Our first back to back winning seasons, overall and in the MAC.
  • As mentioned, back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 70 years (with one more win)

Just wanted to put this out there to make this point:  we might or might not make the Dance.  This system is just cruel.  Everything has to go right.  All the tumblers have to fall into place.  Look at the injury UT had one year.  Or the half-court Miami shot.  It is just very difficult.

But, and here's the key point, our program is as good as it has been in 20 years.  We've finally rebuilt the program.  We are continuing to recruit well.  What we need is a program that is consistently relevant in the MAC...and then we'll get there.

Not saying we won't make it this year.  I think we have as good a shot as anyone--possibly except Akron, who present matchup issues for us.  Looking forward to seeing a rematch.

We all want to make it so bad.  But, we have waited a long time to even be competitive again, and we should enjoy this team at that level, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

MBB MAC Scenarios

So, with the bye, a chance to look in on where things stand right now.

Here's the chart the MAC puts remember when I did these first, right?  Me too.  Love they are doing it, mostly because the tiebreakers can give you a headache.

So, first, the primary concern here is to get one of the 4 byes.  We can talk about winning it all, but it gets you nothing and really, once you're in Cleveland you have to win three games.  The seed doesn't matter except for matchups and you might get a better match up for your team  in the 2 seed than the 1 seed.

If BG wins out, they win the whole enchilada.  That's a big accomplishment, it just doesn't mean anything.  If they don't win out, it depends on how Akron does and of course there is that head-to-head game.

Now, BG has eliminated 5 teams already.  They have to eliminate 8. (Well, OU could technically knot the tie-breaker Saturday.)  BG does have home court sewn up.

If BG wins 4...they would clinch a bye and could not finish below the #2 seed.

If BG wins 3....that's 13-5.  That puts them over NIU and Ball State, who the Falcons have tie-breakers over (2).    Leaving only Kent, UB and CMU who can end 13-5.  Only two of them can do it because Kent and UB play (3).  And BG plays both Kent and UB.  And that's only if they win out...Kent still has to play @EMU (don't laugh) and @AK.  And UB has Ball State and Akron, though at home.  CMU has the tie-breaker over BG, but would need to win seven. due to the coronavirus-game.  In short, at 13-5, BG is virtually assured a bye.

No, what if BG wins 2?  And let's assume they are the least tie-breaking friendly OU and Miami wins.

12-6 was good enough last year.  Probably would be again.  NIU and Ball State play each other and one will end up with a 6th loss (1).  You'd need one additional loss from the winner of that game (2), and then two of the following three teams to lose twice: UB, KSU and CMU.  And UB and KSU play each other, the loser would need to win out beyond that.  And CMU has 2 extra games.

At 12-6 BG is in very solid shape for a bye.  It would take a lot.

At 11-7...yeah, that's a different story.  If BG wins just one out of 5 going home, the answer is in the wind.

I don't think that's going to happen.  Honestly, I don't think there are any unwinnable games left.  Yeah, we didn't go fantastic against Akron and Kent, but I don't think either of them has shown themselves to be unbeatable.  Last year we limped a little to Cleveland and I am hoping we don't this year.

But, to be clear.  The purpose of the regular season to finish 1-4.  And we're in excellent position and in control of whether we make it.  We need no help at all and we don't even need to win out.  Win and advance.

MBB Makes Statement

I said in my preview that BG would be making a statement if they won at Ball State on Saturday.  They did win...and the statement is clear.  Even without Frye, BG is capable of winning the MAC Title.  I'm not going to say they are better without Frye, because I don't think that's true, but with that win BG is not going anywhere.  We're in this race to stay.

More on all the permutations in another post.  For now, BG has 10 wins in MAC play.  12 got them a bye last year and almost certainly would again. 

This is a statement win because Ball State was undefeated at home.  BG, coming off the Akron loss where they could not score, came into the den of the best defensive team in the conference.  And BG adjusted their approach, played good D and got the win they needed.

Not without two minutes of absolutely ridiculous play...but we'll get to that.

Ball State actually led for most of the first half.  They led by 1 with 2:55 left, but BG scored the last 8 points of the half (with two 3FGs by Justin Turner) and led by 7 at the half.  BG then scored the first 4 points of the second half to go up 11.  BG then took control of the game....BG had the lead to 16 with 11;50 left.  In the interim, it had never been closer than 8. 

The lead stayed in that comfortable range.  BG led by 20 with 4:14 left to play and by 17 when the final media timeout hit at 2:31.  At those points, BG had a 99.9% chance of winning the game.

And almost didn't.  I mean, they did...but they almost didn't.

BG came out of that timeout.  The Falcons had been just milking clock.  Justin Turner is a huge asset because you can put him up top, have him run the clock down and you know you are going to get a good shot anyway.

So, the game's over if that keeps happening, so Ball State put full-court pressure on BG and the Falcons completely folded.  It was complete chaos.  Inbounding the ball directly into corner traps, intercepted passes, tie-ups that led to turnovers, even getting the ball up the floor once and turning it was ugly.

BG turned the ball over on 6 straight possessions and 7 of 8, with the odd possession out being the missed front end of a 1-1.  BG had 5 turnovers in the game's first 37 minutes and 8 in the last 3 minutes.

The lead vanished.  Between that 2:37 timeout and :30, it went from 17 to 3.  It was incredible to watch.

Coming off the FTs that made it 3, BG was able to get the ball up floor.  Thankfully, it was inside :30 and Ball State had to foul.  BG maneuvered Turner to get the foul and he made both FTs to put the lead back to 5.

Ball State wasn't done...they came down and missed a shot but had two offensive rebounds and scored again to make it 3 with :13 left. 

BG successfully got the ball in to Turner and he was fouled with :11 left and he made both FTs again to go to 5.  Teague missed a 3FG on the other end and it was finally over.  BG had joined the 999 teams out of a thousand who win with a 17-point lead with 2:31 left.

It's not the first time something like that has happened...BG's Norfolk State collapse is one of the notable ones in NCAA basketball this year.

Coach said BG came out of the timeout thinking they had it won.  They missed open passes and didn't execute the game plan for getting up court.  He also said that it's good to be able to learn when you win...not lose.  And that's fine.  But teams have seen this.  We need to make sure this is figured out.

Here's how it looked.  Pretty close.  Imagine how it would have looked with 3 minutes left.  BG held Ball State to .94 points per possession, a winning number.  Ball State's offensive strategy is inexplicable to me.  They are 10th in the MAC in 3FG shooting and lead the MAC in how many 3FGs they take.  Yesterday was no different.  They took 45% of their FGs from the 3FG and only made 28%.  They were 51% from 2FG.

BG turned them over a little and kept them off of the offensive boards.  Two of their 8 offensive rebounds came on that one possession in the last minute.  And they got to the line only 15 times, making 11.

BG didn't shoot any better, but it was a smarter mix.  I mentioned that Coach Huger had said BG had to drive to contact and get to the rim more, especially post-Frye and as teams are double-teaming Turner.  In this one, BG tried only 12 3FGs.  That's 19% of their total attempts, their lowest since 2016 (Cleveland State, right before Christmas).  They made 45% of the 2FGs and 33% of their 3FGS but shot 22 FTs, making a very solid 17.  Coach said that it was the same offense against Akron but guys made their shots in this one. 

They took very good care of the ball...until...and had a good game on the offensive boards.

In total, BG had 1.01 points per possession against a team that came in allowing .91.

BG was led--and saved--by Justin Turner.  We should really appreciate what we are seeing.  This guy is just a magical player and, as I understand it, a better teammate and friend.  Against constant double-teams and hard-hedges, he scored 33 points.  That's 8 of 16 on 2FGs and 2 of 3 on 3FG.  Both 3FGs came on that key run in the late first half and he made the 4 FTs BG had to have at the end.  He shot 11 of 13 at the line.  He added 6 rebounds and 6 assists...and 4 turnovers. 

Michael Laster had 12 points on 5 of 11 shooting, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.  He also had 1 assist and 3 turnovers, two in the late meltdown.  He's going to be needed as a ballhandler in those situations.

Plowden had 8 points and 8 rebounds, but the shooting wasn't great at 4-13 and 0-3.  Mattos had 6 points and 6 rebounds in 11 minutes.  Mattis had 6 rebounds and 3 turnovers.

So, here's how it looks.  With that win, BG greatly solidified their position.  More on that later.  The Falcons are off on Tuesday with some time to heal up.  Well needed, I'm sure.  I think you always want a late bye if you can get it.  Also, you want one off a win.  Being off after blowing that lead would have been awful.

But that didn't happen.

In the meantime, this is exactly what we have waited for all these years.  Enjoy.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Ball State, Deux

So, BG had its worst offensive game of the season against Akron, it's first post-Frye game against a team that plays defense. Ball State, tomorrow's opponent, plays the best defense in the MAC.

That's exactly the kind of game it was when the two teams played at the Stroh a little while ago.

If you recall, BG won by 6.  Justin Turner had 10 points in the last 3 minutes of the game to salt it away.

So, the MAC average is 1.01 points per possession.  Ball State is allowing .91 points per possession, but BG got .95 points per possession against them in the first meeting.  The mix you see below was how it played out.  For reference, BG's EFG was 40% against Akron Tuesday.  So, while it was a poor offensive night, BG mixed very average shooting with low turnovers and 15 of 19 at the line to get to that level.

Ball State is 11th in the MAC in offense, and BG was able to maximize that part of the equation to get the win.  They scored .86 points per possession--they average .97--and had the worst shooting game of any BG opponent this year.  Again, that's worse than BG shot at Akron Tuesday.

They have won 3 of 4 since playing BG, winning @Kent and ending NIU's winning streak in Muncie.  Their formula has not really changed. They scored under 1 per possession in each win. They held Kent and OU under .8 per possession--a legit shutdown--and you that's a worst-case scenario for BG on Saturday.

From my viewpoint, BG played its first game post-Frye against UT, a terrible defensive team. Against Akron, a good one, the Zips took Turner away and BG's other players had shots conceded and they didn't go down.

BG has had a few days...some kind of adjustment needs to be made.  One thing:  Ball State is #1 defending the 3FG and #8 against the 2FG.  It seems like BG needs to attack the basket in this one...and do it strong, "drive to contact" as Coach said after the game.  I think if BG is going to try and win on the perimeter, that's not going to work.

With KJ Walton down, Ball State basically has been using a six-man rotation.  They are led by two guys.  Tahjal Teague, a legit all-MAC player, scoring 16.5 on 50% shooting, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal a game.  Not a good FT shooter.  Ishmael El-Amin 13 on 41% shooting overall but 40% from 3FG.  Jarron Coleman is their PG, with basically a 1:1 A/TO ratio.

So here we go.  This would be a huge one for BG to get.  You'd get to 10 MAC wins with a road win against a team that has not lost at home this year in conference.  You'd establish some confidence in the team's ability to rebound from Frye's departure--it would just make a statement.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

JAR of Horrors

So, the JAR remained what it has been for BG over the past 11 years...a place of horror and disappointment.  Just to wallow in it for a minute, among those 11 defeats, 8 have been by double digits, three by 20 or more and one by 30 or more.  It just has been a place where nothing good happens to BG.

For the record, BG did not come in and lay a complete egg or get blown off the floor by any stretch of the imagination.  BG didn't have enough to win, but they were in the game much of the way.

In the first half, for example, it was very evenly played.  BG was only down 2 with 4 minutes left when AK went on a 9-3 run to go up and 8 and they led by 6 at the half...certainly still a game at that point.

As they have sometimes done, BG came storming out of the locker room and scored the first six points to tie the game just 1 minute in.  Alas, that was the high point of the half.  AK pumped the lead to 6.  Still, BG had it at 1 at 12:27.  Akron got it back to 6 and then a 7-0 run to build the lead from 4 to 11 with 8 minutes left.  At that point, the game went almost 3 minutes without any points at all, during which time BG had 1 turnover and missed 4 layups and it never got closer than 9 again and ended up at 15.

BG did not lead in the second half.

My preview noted that Akron has been a good shooting team but slumping and BG needed to score against them to compete.  Akron did, in fact, have their fourth straight sub-par shooting game.  BG held them to 1.02 points per possession, which should be a for-sure winning number for us.  Sadly, BG had its worst offensive game of the season, at .82 points per possession.  They were that low in a MAC game only once last year. Only 3 times since 2002 has BG won a game scoring that low or less.

From my view, it was clear what Akron wanted to do.  They wanted to take Justin Turner out of the game and force other players to make shots for BG, and they did not.  Coach said in the post-game that BG got open looks but didn't make them and that other players are going to have to learn to step up.  He tripped over himself quite a bit in trying to avoid saying it, but losing Frye has required different guys to do different things and they have to make adjustments and it wasn't evident at the JAR that night.

BG shot 43% from 2FG and 24% from 3FG, their 4th worst shooting night this year.  They also turned the ball over....17%, not a terrible amount for more than usual...did OK on offensive rebounds and never really got to the line at all and shot under 50% when they did. Coach emphasized the BG needed to drive to contact to get fouls called.

Meanwhile, BG did a nice job on Akron's 3FG shooting, holding them to 29%.  The problem, as Coach noted, was that Akron adjusted and drove the ball and the Falcons gave up too many straight-line drives.  Akron shot 54% from 2FG.  They took reasonable care of the ball, didn't have much success on the boards and made a ton of FTs, partly as BG was fouling at the end.  Still, they shot 93% in the second half at the line.

Individually, Daeqwon Plowden played well for BG with 18 points and 10 rebounds.  He shot 8 of 15, so he had a good night.

Justin Turner really had to work.  He had 12 points of 4 of 12 and 1 of 3 shooting, 3 assists and 4 turnovers.  Any team in the MAC would consider that a success.  He was double-teamed much of the night and didn't make much of it and his teammates didn't take advantage of the open space.  Tayler Mattos had 7 points and 6 rebounds in 10 minutes.

Akron is really long on the edges and that seemed to be a problem for BG.  If I had a chance to ask Coach a question, I would wonder why Matiss, who would seem to be the antidote to that, didn't get more than 3 minutes in the game.  And, why does Mattos only play 10 minutes?

Here's where we are.  BG is 9-3 in MAC play and has a negative scoring differential.  You just don't see that happen.  This is why, by the way, BG is so poorly ranked in all the computer rankings and why they are considered "lucky."  Akron is +9 per game, by comparison.

The Falcons do not have any time to feel sorry about this game.  They have a very tough roadie at Ball State on Saturday.  BSU is unbeaten in the MAC at home and certainly has a shot to win the title this year.  BG remains in decent shape--and let's remember we would have identified this as the toughest week of the season all along--but they don't have the luxury of time in adjusting to playing without their 2nd leading scorer.  They have time...but not a lot.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Akron Preview....

The echoes of Saturday's game have barely died down and here we are again, on the court with a game against the team that has the highest ranking, if not the best record, in the MAC.

Akron is 17-6 and 7-3 in the MAC.  Their non-conference losses were to Louisville, WVU and Liberty.  They started out 6-1 in MAC play, but lost 2 of their next 3 (and barely beat EMU at the JAR).  They lost at home to Toledo (not part of the streak).  I'll take a look at why they are losing in a second.

Falcon fans know that Akron has dominated us in a way that no other team has.  Going back 15 years, Akron is 28-3 against Bowling Green.  It's just incredible.  The Falcons have won 2 of the last 5 against the Zips.  Their last win at the JAR was the 2009 shocker that led to a MAC regular season title...10 straight losses.

BG split with Akron last year and lost by 24 in Akron.

One thing we know is that John Groce can coach in the MAC.  He was highly successful at OU and now he has rebuilt the Akron program after it was down to bare wood after Dambrot left.

The Zips are the top offensive team in the MAC and #39 in the country.  They combine that with being #4 in defensive efficiency and that's how they get where they are.  They won their first five MAC games in blow outs...for the year, their average margin of victory is 9 points, whereas BG's is .5.

This is a little different from playing UT and CMU--who can score the ball but don't play great defense.  AK is strong on both sides of the ball.  Basically, BG and AK present similar profiles.

The key to Akron's success for the year is shooting.  They lead the MAC in EFG and are #50 in the country.  They lead the MAC in 3FG and are 2nd in 2FG.  The 43% of the FGs from 3FG, 2nd in the MAC.  The other numbers are fine...they are #6 in protecting the ball and on the offensive boards.  They are 9th in getting to the line, but lead the MAC with 81% made.  They are #13 in FT shooting.'
They will be a test for BG--who attempted to outscore CMU and UT and didn't have much success on defense.

So Akron has lost 2 of their last 3.  That's UB, @KSU and then they beat EMU by 1 at the JAR.  What's going on?  As you can see here, they are a shooting team that has not been making shots for the last 3 games.  So we can only hope to see that continue...

Flipping that around, UA's biggest defensive calling card is forcing turnovers.  They lead the MAC.  Their are #6 defending the shot and are #11 in rebounding and allowing free throws. 

I think those middle two factors will be key.  AK is #1 at getting turnovers and BG is #1 at preventing them.  We know BG has had a change at the guard position and Akron will present a real test to how well BG moves on from losing Frye.  BG has been decent on the offensive boards and could help their cause a lot with some offensive boards.  Finally, BG can't chose tonight to miss shots, either FGs or at the line.

The Zips are led by Loren Cristian Jackson, who is #2 in the MAC with 21.9 PPG.  He's efficient as hell.  He makes 50% overall and leads the MAC with 55% from 3FG.  He makes 86% of his FTs (#3 in MAC) and is #3 with 4.9 assists per game.  He's #2 in A/TO ratio...behind Michael Laster.  He's just a really good player...POY candidate.  Transferred from Long Beach State.

He is joined by Tyler Cheese.  He scores 18 PPG, but less efficiently.  He shoots 48% and 35%, which are plenty good.  He makes 87% of his FTs and has 3.7 assists per game.  He's a very good player.

If that wasn't enough, they probably have the MAC's top newcomer in Xeyrius Williams.  He's a 6'9" transfer from Dayton.  He is scoring 15.2 PPG to go with 8.9 RPG.  He shoots 45% overall but 44% from 3FG and makes 93% of his FTs, though he rarely is fouled.

They don't have tremendous depth.  They are 10th in the MAC in bench minutes (BG is #3) and they are the 3rd most experienced team in the MAC.

This is another test on the road to the championship.  BG is taking on a very good team on the road in a place where we rarely win and we're going it without a key player.  Unless Akron's shooting woes turn out to be permanent, I think they are likely to be in the title game.  BG will play them twice and these will be good tests. 

Akron is obviously why not BG?  Looking very forward to tonight's game.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Momentous Day for BG MBB: Dylan Frye and Sweet Victory

What a day yesterday was in men's basketball at BG.

To start with...I'm on my way to the game and I see the tweet from NickP of The Blade:  Dylan Frye had left the program.

I don't think I'd seen anything that shocking since I was in a meeting and I got a text that Chris Jans had been fired.  It's just jaw-dropping news, one month before the end of the season, one where the team is in first place.  Clearly, it changes everything on a team to lose its second-leading scorer suddenly like that.  Just when you felt like things were moving along, you get a gut punch like that.  It felt almost like the curse of 1968 rearing its head again.

After the game, Huger said that Frye left of his own volition. When asked if the door was open to come back, he said "we'll see."

He also said "we all wish Dylan the best and, hopefully, everything will be all right."

I think everyone echoes those sentiments.  There's no point in trying to guess what happened and we might never find out, which is fine.  Whatever it is, I wish Dylan the best in dealing with it.

And things move on.

Frye was BG's point guard and the team had to figure out how to handle that most demanding of positions.  Further, he had been effective...his shooting had been not great, but he was largely responsible for BG being among the top teams in college basketball in protecting the ball.  Michael Laster is the backup PG, but coach did something different.  He kept Laster in that role and moved Davin Zeigler--the team's PG of the future--into the starting spot.

And you know, he did pretty well.  He's been producing in the minutes he has gotten.  He would have started for our team three years ago.

But now we are getting into the let's do it.

Oh, sweet victory.  It was a great game, right down to the wire, but BG pulled it out in their first game with the new lineup.  Oh, it was a sweet, sweet victory.

UT came out and played hard.  They lack depth and rely on 3 players to do their scoring, but they are getting the most out of that setup, even after five straight losses.  They led for most of the first 11 minutes of the game and were up 24-22 with 9 left.  Over the next four minutes, BG went on a 17-4 run to go up 11.  The run featured two 3FGs by Mattis, one of them a Steph Curry distance 3.  From there, BG led by 8 at the half.

There were some foul issues in the first half, but BG was able to continue to use its depth to keep in the game and even take the lead.

One of them was Plowden, who had 2.  UT came out in the second half and ran a play right at him and drew his third.  He stayed in and didn't foul out, but it was a great move by UT because it impacted his interior defense the rest of the way.

UT never led in the second half.  BG would push the lead up a little bit...8 or 10 points, but the Rockets would battle it back.  It was an incredibly entertaining and heart-stopping half of basketball.

About 3 minutes into the half, Marreon Jackson was shooting a 3FG from the corner and there was contact.  I looked away but the ref came charging out and called Jackson for kicking his legs into contact, something I have not seen called this year in many hours of basketball watching.

Put a pin in that.

With 2:31 left, BG was up 5.  Knapke hit a 3FG.  Zeigler was fouled and, cool as can be, hit both FTs and BG was up 4.  Knapke hit another 3FG with 1:38 left to play.  Both plays featured Jackson driving to the basket, attracting the defense and then kicking out to Knapke.

Place is just crazy right now.  BG is running clock.  Actually, they had been for a couple of minutes, even with a slim lead.  The set up is simple.  It's a high one-four, Turner up top.  At ten on the clock, the 5 comes out and offers a screen and Turner goes to work.  In this case, BG ate up one-third of the remaining game and Turner hit Caleb Fields for a layup and BG was up 3 with 1:08 left to play.

With :49 left, Jackson hit a 3FG and the game was tied.

BG ran clock again and Turner got into the paint and missed with :25 left, but Matiss was there to tip the ball into the basket.  Pandemonium...and then the ref was signaling that it was basket interference.

It was right in line with my seat and the ball was clearly outside the cylinder.  They went to the replay and lo and behold, reversed the call to put BG up 2.

UT came down and Marreon Jackson was driving and Plowden bumped him in the open court with :14 left.  I didn't think it was a bad play.  Worst case, they tie the game and we have the ball last.

Which is what happened...Jackson hit both FTs (you knew he would) and BG came down the floor.

Same play.  Isolate Turner.  He drove the ball and ended up with a step back 2 to try and win the game.  There was contact with Littleson and both players fell to the floor.  The arena froze and 5,000 people didn't breathe.  And they called the foul with 1.2 left.

Kowalczyk went insane, the Rocket coached turning into a Rockette as he kicked his leg out and demanded the call that had been made against Jackson at the other end.  I find it hard to believe that a man's head can get that red without requiring medical intervention.

There's been plenty of debate about the call.  Kowalcyk ripped it post-game.  Jordan Strack posted a picture showing Turner's leg extended.  David Briggs went back and edited his column to say it should have been a no-call.

Coach Huger had a different perspective.  He said that Littleson had run through Turner and not allowed him to land, a clear foul.

Here's the play in real time--which supports the call that was made way more than a still frame.  Turner was stepping back, I think the leg was part of that motion.  Anyway, here's the look from NickP of The Blade, see for yourself.  I note that the defender pounded the floor me, he knows he got too close.  Turner was undercut and it's a foul at any time in the game, especially a tightly called one like this one.

Turner made both free throws and BG had the win.  It was a thriller and one we will take all day.  There were calls made the whole way and many of them went UT' way.

In other words, to respond to the presser by Kowalczyk :


Here are the numbers that reflect a razor-thin game.  BG ended up with 1.21 points per possession against the defensively-starved Rockets.  Two of BG's 3 best offensive games have been against UT this year.  The Rockets had 1.18 points per possession, which is BG's second-worst defensive game of the year...only matching up against the last one.

BG shot well.  The Falcons shot 53% on 2FG and 41% from 3FG.  UT was 48% and 50%. Given the number of close looks UT gets in their post action, I'm always surprised that 2FG number isn't higher. BG had a +4 advantage in turnovers...which might well have been the difference.  The Rockets were +4 at the line, making 20-29 against BG's 16 of 24.  A better FT effort from either team might have been decisive.

Individually, BG had so many contributions.  Turner had a rough 21, on 7 of 21 shooting.  They made him work for his points, which I'm sure was their goal.  He was 3 of 8 from 3FG, missed 3 FTs (but made the ones we had to have) and added 5 rebounds, 5 assists and no turnovers.

Plowden had 13 points and 8 rebounds in only 26 minutes.  He was big on the defensive boards in the second half.  And Matiss had a career-high 12 points in 22 minutes.  He shot 3-3 from 2FG and 2 of 5 from 3FG added 3 defending Knapke.

He's coming into his own at just the right time.  Coach said that this is the player he saw in high school, before he was injured early in his BG career.

Davin Zeigler, making his first start.  Eight points in 14 minutes.  Two of four shooting, made all 4 FTs, including two super-clutch ones and had 2 steals on a team that doesn't really get steals.

Michael Laster?  He had 7 points, 3 assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes.

Tayler Mattos?  Seven points on 3 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

Caleb Fields...a long day blanketing Marreon Jackson and making him work for his 31 points---that kid is a great player.

Sierra and Diggs...six points each.  It was a team win under trying circumstances.  It is a credit to the team's leadership that they absorbed Friday's drama and got the win in a tightly-fought game.

So, on we go.  Big week next week.  At Akron and at Ball State.  Difficult assignment, but BG is in good position, as you can see below.  Remember, you need to finish in the top 4.  Honestly, Akron has lost 2 in a row and nearly lost at home to EMU. They're not unbeatable.

The question is, can a team lose its second-leading scorer more than halfway into the MAC season and still win it all?  We shall see.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Hated Rockets Part II

UT becomes the first team BG has played twice this season.  I can do a slightly abbreviated preview, since we just played UT.  As we all remember, that was a thrilling win for BG inside Savage Hall.

Since then, UT has been reeling.  The BG loss was the first of what is now four-game losing streak.  Of the 3 games since BG, 2 of the losses were at Kent and NIU...and then they lost @EMU to give the Eagles their first conference win.

Here's the game report from that game.  As you can see, BG shot very well.  There were very few turnovers either way, and BG dominated the glass.  As I recall, UT rarely crashed the offensive glass.

Simply put, UT is a strong offensive team (2nd in the MAC) and a very poor defensive team (11th in the MAC).

Beyond that, this team has no depth.  Out of 353 teams in D1 basketball, they are 351st in bench minutes.  For two of the four games on this losing streak, they also played without Stuart Littleson, making the situation even worse.  They essentially play a six-man rotation with only one bench player getting even ten minutes.

I remember back to some of the DD teams that were very short-handed.  The conference schedule is a very rough grind.

One other note from the first game.  Luke Knapke had a season-high 23 against BG, who had no one able to handle him in the post.  Matiss eventually got it done, but in general BG had no answer.  I'd expect UT to try and force that hand and hopefully the Falcons have made an adjustment.

This is probably the first time that we have been favored over UT since Kowalcyk's first year.  Even so, you know, it's the Rockets.  You know they'd love to get us back and break their losing streak.

It's going to be an electric environment.  The place is sold out, there should be people standing in the aisles. Every game is a march to Cleveland, but it would be oh-so-sweet to finish this series with a sweep.

BG has not beaten UT twice in the same year since the 98-99 season.  It was a Stan Joplin 19-win UT team and Dan Dakich was coaching a BG team featuring Anthony Stacey and Keith McLeod.  (Note:  for many of those years they only played UT once every year).

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Signing Day Part Two

So, it's done.  BG is bringing in 31 players, which is a huge class.  I know the limit is 25...Coach didn't address how it worked out.  I have read that early enrollees can count in the previous class if there were slots open and we only reported 20 on signing day last year--but also added Wade and McDonald after that.  Anyway, who knows.  We have 31 guys coming in and it will all be clear in the end.

BG added four guys.  Most of the news is something we already looked at when they committed.  The one that is interesting is Charles Rosser, the WR from Benedictine in Cleveland.  Coach said with his size and athleticism he could end up at WR, TE or even LB, depending on where they think he fits.

Coach said the focus of this class was QB, OL and DL.  He says those are the toughest positions to recruit and the ones where the developmental time is the longest. gotta be strong up front and at QB to have a shot at winning.

He says that next year, there will still be a focus on the players upfront but more effort will also be put into skill players.

BG will still be short on numbers this year, but expects to be at or near 85 for 2021, which Loeffler says is a year ahead of schedule if it happens.

BG has a long way to go.  It will take more than one good class to get us where we need to be.  Having said that, you can't get two until you get one.  This class had to be good.

Was it?  It certainly appears so, as the #2 class in the MAC.  That has to be proven out on the field, but for now I do feel like we've taken a first step to getting back where we want to be.

BG MBB Win Streak Snaps

Well, nothing lasts forever.

BG's MBB 8-game winning streak and four-game road winning streak came to an end at McGuirk Arena in Central Michigan.  BG remains in first place in the MAC and remains in excellent position to win a bye to Cleveland, provided that the one loss doesn't turn into a losing streak.  They have a reeling UT at home on Saturday and then a key matchup @ Akron the following Tuesday.  No time to feel sorry for themselves.

BG got out to one of its poor starts, trailing 11-2 early.  BG got it to 2 with about 11 minutes left, but CMU was scoring relentlessly and with 6 minutes left had a 12 point lead.  They trailed by 13, 48-35 at the half.

Not an unusual place to be, but the story does not end with a big comeback.  BG never got it closer than 8 and trailed double digits most of the time--by as many as 15.  The 92-82 final is sort of your classic CMU game.

It was a game dominated by the offenses.  BG scored 1.15 points per possession, a normally winning number.  In fact, they haven't scored this well and lost since the Abilene Christian game of 2016.  Problem is, CMU scored 1.29 points per possession, BG's worst since 2018.  (As a note, BG allowed 9 teams to score over 1.24 in 2018, but it hadn't happened against until last night.)

The pace was 71 possessions, which is normal.  Both teams shot well and took good care of the ball.  Problem is, CMU took better care of the ball.  If BG isn't going to force turnovers in order to focus on defending the shot, then they need to get more misses than that.  Nobody did much on the offensive boards.  BG was good at the time--15 of 17--but CMU was better, with an eye-popping 24 of 26.  Gads.

CMU made 52% of their 3FGs--BG's most since the Detroit game last year--and 44% of their 2FGs.  BG reversed that, making 44% of 2FG and 52% of 3FG.  BG has beaten a team making 52% of its 3FGs since Florida Gulf Coast in 2016.

Justin Turner had an incredible night.  He scored 31 on 8 of 16 shooting, 4 of 9 from 3FG and made all 11 of his FTs.  None of the other starters got into double figures.  Diggs had 11 on 4 of 8 and 1 of 1 shooting.  Laster added 10 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 6 assists and no turnovers, which is a really solid night.

Frye and Sierra led the team with 5 rebounds.

And on we go.  Will BG rally and make this a bump in the road or will it turn into an off-ramp.  I believe in this team and I believe they won't let derail them, but that has to happen on the floor.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Chip Preview

BG, 4-0 in MAC road games, gets a chance for a 5th straight road win and a nine-win overall when they take on CMU Tuesday night in Mt. Pleasant.  BG is 8-2 and CMU is 5-2.  The Chips have played two fewer games because they already had their bye week and then they had the game canceled because of "coronavirus" in Oxford.  So, they have a couple to make up but can get even in the loss column with a win and they were missing their leading scorer for 3 games, going 1-2.

They are 12-8 with 3 non-D1 wins.  They have an uncanny ability to schedule the lowest ranked D1 teams, as well, and their best non-conf win was over Sam Houston State, #162.  Their worst loss was @ Robert Morris (#219).  Their kenpom is #193.

Often a team that plays like that has trouble in MAC play, but as mentioned CMU is off to a good start.  They are 3-1 at home, beating Miami, NIU and BSU and losing to UB, while they are 2-1 on the road, beating WMU and UT and losing @ Kent.

BG won both meetings last year, including at McGuirk.  Over the last 10, the teams are even 5-5.

Normally, CMU in the Keno Davis era has been an offensive juggernaut.  They are balanced...5th in offensive efficiency and 6th in defense.  BG is 4th and the place where there is the bigger difference is when BG has the ball and that should be the bigger challenge.

So, not only are the overall numbers pretty close, but each of these numbers are pretty close as well.  CMU is doing almost exactly the same thing offensive as BG is defensively.  They take a low percentage of 3s overall, but are #6 at making them and #9 at shooting the 2FG. BG is #4 defending the 3FG and #5 against the 3FG.  While CMU does get to the line and they are #3 at making FTs.

Looking at the more key matchup, a big part of the battle will be shooting and turnovers.   They are 11th defending the shot...11th against the 3FG and 9th against the 2FG.  They make up for it by getting turnovers.  BG leads the MAC in protecting the ball and CMU is #2 at forcing turnovers. They are #2 in steals, the more valuable turnover. So, if BG can make shots and take care of the ball, they have a good shot at this game.

Their leading player is Kevin McKay, a 6'5" G.  He's scoring 16.5 PPG and shooting 71%.  He'd be the MAC leader, but he missed 3 games and returned for Ball State, their most recent game, and played 29 minutes.  He also leads the team with 8.5 RPG.

Dallas Morgan is scoring 14 PPG.  He's shooting 45% overall and 34% from 3FG.  He's a JUCO player in his senior year.

David DiLeo, who we are well familiar with, is scoring 13.9 PPG.  He is efficient, shooting 49% overall and 45% on 3FG. 

Finally, Rob Montgomery, is scoring a rough 10 PPG on 36% and 21% shooting. Devontae Lane leads the team with 17 assists and 20 turnovers.

I'l tell you, CMU might be a bit of a sleeper.  On the other hand, BG is playing well and every win puts them closer to the next step, which is a berth in Cleveland.  Will be intersting.

And Another Football Verbal

His name is Lajohntay Wester, of Palmetto, FL.  Palmetto is just north of the Manatee river from Bradenton.

He's 5'11'' and 170 with a reported 40 of 4.39.  There's not a ton of information on him...if you read game reports you see him on the finishing end of some big plays, especially on kick returns.  His coach said he has received Division I offers as a QB, WR, plus kick returning.

Looking through his twitter feed, his offers were from Gardner-Webb, Valdosta State, Tennessee Tech.  He said he had 8 offers when he got the Gardner-Webb one.  The only other FBS offer I could find was UT.

He played on a good team.  They made the state 6A semi-finals and went 12-2 last year.  (The Florida classes go up to 8.)

Welcome to the Falcons, Lajohntay.

Signing Day Part Two is Upcoming, More Verbals

So much forgotten now that we have the December signing day is that there is another signing day for football and it is Wednesday. Meanwhile, BG's coaches are hard at work and they are still adding highly regarded recruits. Coach said at this first presser that he was going to do what he could "legally" to stretch the size of the class because we need bodies. I am assuming this is what that is. I don't know what these means are--perhaps he will discuss Wednesday--they could involve preferred walk-ons, grey shirts, black shirts, orange shirts, polka dot shirts. Time will tell.

The news here is that he's bringing in sought-after players in his first real class and is taking the first steps that we all hope will result in the re-building of our program.

A couple days ago I wrote about Gabe Brown...just to reiterate, he's ranked as 3-stars on 247.

Here are the other three players...

Going in order...Charles Rosser is a 6'3" and 207 lb WR from Benedictine HS in Cleveland. He is a 3-star on 247 with reported offers from Rutgers and Akron.  In fact, he was once committed to Akron.

He was 2nd-team All-State in Division II.  Late in the season he had 761 receiving yards on 38 catches.  Also, he excels in the 300-meter hurdle event so some clear athleticism there.

This is a quality program, with recent state titles under their belt.  They were 10-2 last season.

Next is Jaylen Lawson.  He's listed as a 6'1" ATH at Lafayette High School in Lexington KY.
From, before his senior season:

Lawson, a 6-1, 200-pound senior linebacker for the Generals, returns as the team’s leading tackler after pulling down 105 a year ago, including 60 on his own and 12.5 for a loss. He also netted three sacks and forced and recovered two fumbles, helping him earn H-L second-team all-city honors.

He was first-team all-city as a senior and honorable mention all-state. There is no 247 ranking.

The last one is the most recruited of the 3.  Billie Roberts is from Muskegon, MI.  He is a 6'4", 230 pound WDE (weak side, usually more of a pass-rushing type).  Having said that, he was switched to o-line as a senior where there was talk of him being Joe Staley.  He's a 3-star recruit as well.  He's ranked as the #31 player in Michigan and the #60 player at his position in the country.

He had a ton of reported offers, including Buffalo, BC, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Pitt, Syracuse, Toledo, Tennessee and Western Michigan.

The D zone has a list of the dates when all this happened, and you can see that he was heavily recruited in the summer of 18...before his junior year through about April before his senior year, when the recruiting dropped off.  His last reported offer was April of 19 from UB.

He played as a senior and was first-team all-state in his division.

By the way, here's a story that talks about Roberts and Muskegon...where the athletic program focuses on scholarships, not way to get players a ticket out of Muskegon.

He was also successful as a basketball player.

So, three more committed to BG.  Welcome to the Falcons, Jaylen, Billie and Charles.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

And the beat goes on...

BG won their 8th straight game last night in a huge win at Buffalo, where they had not won in 11 years...BG had lost 9 of 10 to the Bulls during their historic title run.  It was a thriller and a huge win.  BG is now 8-1 and have a two-game lead.  This was a huge win to get on the road.  I think fans be confident now...BG can beat any team in this conference, home or away.

This is, to date, a historically good season for us.  Check out the superlatives below from BGSU.

  • BGSU has won eight-straight conference games for the first time since 1979-80. 
  • All eight games have been won by single digits. The Falcons have won eight-straight games by single digits for the first time in school history. 
  • BGSU has won the eight games by a combined 32 points, marking the lowest combined margin of victory across an eight-game winning streak in the history of the program.
  • For just the second time ever – and first time since 1961-62 – the Falcons have won their first four conference road games. The 1961-62 team lost its fifth road game that year – a 70-59 decision at Toledo – but went on to win a regular-season MAC title with a league record of 11-1.
  • Bowling Green has matched the school record for best MAC start through nine games. The Falcons have started MAC play with an 8-1 record a total of five times, including each of the last two seasons. BGSU has started 8-1 in the MAC in the following seasons: 2019-20; 2018-19; 1982-83; 1979-80; 1961-62.
  • BGSU has won at least 17 of its first 22 games for the first time since 2001-02. Bowling Green has won at least 17 of its first 22 games for just the 10th time in program history.
Enjoy the ride, people.  This is awesome.

This was a tough environment.  There was a good crowd and UB is a good team and plays hard.  In fact, they were fantastic in the first half.  They were making plays on both ends of the floor and had the pace their way...frenetic.  Coach said BG aided their pace by turning the ball over and taking bad shots.  Anyway, it was something to see.  BG did not match up well at that pace--UB had unfettered access to the rim--and BG trailed by 11 at halftime.

Coach said the team had a "nice talk" about playing tougher in the second half.  Better shots, take care of the ball, better transition defense.

And it worked.  If you want to know what makes the win important, it's that BG took a big punch in the first half and responded in the second half, going on a 15-4 run right out of the locker room to tie the game 5 minutes into the half.  From there on in, it was hand to hand combat.  There were three more ties and the lead changed 9 times over those 15 minutes.  It was an incredibly entertaining basketball game.

The last two minutes were downright harrowing.  BG was down 1 with the ball and Justin Turner got into the paint and scored to put BG up 1.  On the next possession, BG hack-a-Davonte'd Jordan, a poor FT shooter.  He missed the FT but UB got the rebound and was fouled again and then they missed the FT again (both 1-1) and BG had the board.  

With 2:04, next possess, Matiss was fouled and split the pait at the line, BG up 2.  With 1:51 left BG got a stop, Matiss got the board and was fouled right away.  He made both FTs this time and BG was up 4.

Graves hit a layup with 1:42 left to cut it to 2 and UB took their last time out.  They transitioned to a press, which BG handled.  They fouled Frye who made both his FTs to make it 4 again.

Just inside a minute, BG had a stop and a possession to lock the thing down, but turned the ball over and UB scored with :44 left to make it 2.

BG ran clock down to :17, when Frye missed a 3.  It's now down to one possession...OK Corrall time.

UB attacked the basket and Matiss fouled Graves, who could tie it with 2 FTs with :07 left.  He made the first and missed the second.  UB got the board, missed another shot and then the ball was knocked out of bounds.  They called it BG ball, which in live time looked wrong to me, then looked at the replay and I don't know how you could tell, but they reversed it and it was UB ball on the baseline with 5 to play.

They got the ball to Graves working against Fields.  Fields played him tough, Graves lost his balance and Fields smothered him immediately.  He launched a desperation 3 which Fields blocked and BG had the win.


And so sweet.

BG won the game two ways...FG shooting and FT shooting.  BG shot only 25% of their FGs from 3FG, their lowest rate of 3FG attempts in MAC play in two years and the lowest this season overall.  BG was 48% on 2FG and 29% on 3FG.  Meanwhile, UB, which tried only 22% of its FGs from 3FG (as noted in my preview), was 45% and 29%.  Close game, that slight difference matters.

I'll tell you what, those were hard-fought baskets at the rim, too.  UB blocked a ridiculous 15 shots...not sure when the last time an opponent did that to us.  Anyway, the other difference was FTs.  BG was 13 out of 17 and UB was only 6 out of 13.

BG had a slight turnover edge...all of which had to counteract UB's offensive rebounding, which was dominant.  That's the best against BG all year.  They had 19 seconds chance points off 24 offensive rebounds, which doesn't seem like very much to me.

Individually, Justin Turner was Justin Turner.  He scored 23 on 10 of 16 from 2FG and 1 of 5 on 3FG.  Some of those hoops were just on dazzling individual efforts.

Dylan Frye had 17...3 of 4 from 3FG but 2 of 10 from 2FG...he was a primary victim of UB's shot blocking.  He made all 4 of his FTs, added 4 rebounds and 3 steals.  The last of those 3FGs set the all-time BG record for 3FGs (previous John Reimold) and will ensure his place as one of BG's best.  The hoop also gave BG the lead.

Plowden had 10 on 4 of 6 shooting and added 6 rebounds.  Perhaps more importantly, after what Coach said was a "nice" halftime talk, he shored up what has been a lagging defensive effort of late and shut Jeenathan Williams down in the second half, holding him to 3 shots.

Tayler Mattos had 10 points in 13 minutes.  Also 4 fouls and 4 rebounds...Coach said he wasn't 100% due to the flu.

BG is getting contributions off the bench and that's so important.  Remember those teams you can't seem to beat...Akron, Kent, UB...players just come at you in waves.  

Mattis had 7 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes.  He came to BG and I think we expected a stretch 4 who could shoot from 3 (Euro-style), but he has evolved into a guy who is athletic enough to play the post effectively and with great energy on both ends of the floor, something BG badly needs.

Davin Zeigler is proof of how deep this team is.  When he's on the floor, you can tell he's going to be a player in this conference.

Also, let's not forget Caleb Fields.  He doesn't always put numbers on the stat sheet, but he's vital to this team, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Anyway, I had heart palpitations just describing that last minute again.  Next up is another road test at CMU...let the beat continue to go on.