Sunday, February 26, 2017

Flashing into town....

So next come the Falcons, as the season draws to a rather interesting close.  Here's the thing.  BG has a shot at a home berth.  They pretty much need to win them both coming home and certainly need to win 1 and this is the more likely of the two to get.  It is still going to be tough.

The opponent is Kent State.  BG beat the Flashes in OT at the MACC earlier this year in a crazy game in which BG erased at 4-point deficit in the final :14 of overtime.  There are no bad road wins.

Since then, Kent is playing great basketball.  Their very next game after that was not good.  They lost by 20 to Toledo and at 5-7 it was starting to look like the Flashes were driving off the side of the road.  In fact, you have to wonder how secure Senderhoff is over there, though I have no idea of his contract status.

Anyway, since then things have turned around.  They have won 4 straight, including @Akron, @Buffalo and Ohio.  Those are the 3 best teams in the MAC, and they've beaten them and won two of them on the road.  This is a team that is playing really well and appears to be a threat to win the tournament.

Looking back at the first game, I suspect Kent regrets mostly their inability to take care of the ball against BG...especially at the end of the OT.  The rest of it was pretty even and even favored Kent a little bit.  Jaylin Walker led the Flashes with 18 points and Jimmy Hall double-doubled though he also had 8 turnovers.  Matt Fox had 18, Wiggins 16 and 8 rebounds and Caldwell had 16 as well.

So, for the year we can see that Kent is about even offensively and defensively.  That's 9th in offense and 5th in defense.  BG has been getting stops the last two weeks.  During their winning streak, Kent has basically just tweaked this formula a little bit.  They have been a little better on offense and even better on defense.

Kent has not been a great shooting team this year.  They are 8th in the MAC in shooting.  They also turn the ball over a lot...they are 10th in the MAC in turnovers.  If anything has really improved in their run, it has been turnovers, which have been under 15% in all four wins and under 8% in the win at the JAR.

Their strength is now and has been offensive rebounding.  They are just really good on the offensive boards.  That's the best number in the MAC.  They also don't get to the line much, though they make 73% when they do.  They are 10th in shooting 3FGS and 7th in 2FGs.

Flipping it around, Kent gets their strong defense not by doing any one thing really well but by doing nothing badly.  They are 5th in EFG, 5th in turnovers, 6th in OREB% and 6th in FTR.  They are #3 in defending the 3-pont line.  As you can see, their offense and BG's defense are pretty similar.  Reminder, BG is 11th in offense and defense in MAC play.  (Frankly, and this is a topic for another day, but BG's 7 wins are clearly out-performing what you'd expect from these numbers.)

Kent is led by Jimmy Hall, who is a MAC POTY candidate for sure.  He's scoring (all games) 19 PPG and adding 9.6 RPG.  He shoots 53%.  He's a handful and first-team All-MAC and there's no doubt about it.  Perhaps their better-kept secret is Deon Edwin, who is scoring at 14.8 PPG with 6 rebounds per game.  He had 20 and 18 against OU Saturday and scored 21 in the Akron win.

He and Hall are both seniors and actually are the top assist-men on the Flashes as well.

Their other top scorer is Jaylin Walker, who scores an inefficient 15 PPG on 38% shooting.  FWIW, Kevin Zabo, a 6 PPG scorer had 17 in the first game against the Falcons.

So, this is going to be interesting.  The Flashes are playing really well, have two strong seniors and are in the hot running for one of the byes.  BG is playing well and will be at home.  It will be a good test for our guys.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Falcons Notch 7th MAC Win @Miami

For all the unexpected nature of this year's season, this is one that went just as it was supposed to.  BG was playing Miami, the worst team in the MAC and it isn't close.  BG isn't great, but coming off the win over Akron you'd hate to lose this one, no matter where it was played.

And the Falcons did drama-free fashion, 70-54 and going away.  Miami never led.  The game was tied a little bit in the second half.  Miami cut the lead to 5 with 7:30 left at 50-45, and then from there on in BG outscored them 20-9 to get the victory.

I saw Vegas had Miami as a 2-point favorite.  You'd have to wonder about that.  Too bad I don't gamble...anyway, this is one BG should have won, needed to win, and won...and did so without any craziness.

More at the end of the post to reset BG's shot at home court, which has improved.

For the game, the key was defense.  It was no work of art for either team when it comes to making 3FG.  Collectively, the two teams were 5 of 42 from long distance.  That's not good at all.  Miami, the worst offensive team in the MAC, had .76 points per possession.  The only BG opponent to be less efficient was Morgan State, not counting Notre Dame.  Anyway, Miami only had an EFG of 41%, which means 63% on 2FG and 8% on 3FGs.  That is also BG's second best outcome in D1 this year, best in the MAC.  

BG didn't have a great offensive game.....98 points per possession and an EFG of 50%, which is pretty much average.  However, they were significantly better than the RedHawks and then more or less even on turnovers, better on the offensive boards and at the line.  BG had a great game with FTs, making 17 of 19 while Miami made only 8 out of 16.

BG was led by Antwon Lillard with 16 points.  He was about as efficient as you can be, making 4 of 6 FGs and 8-8 FTs and adding 9 Rebs.  He has certainly been in a sophomore slump.  Since the Ball State game, (the first one), he has only been in double figures twice, UT and this game.  I still believe he can be a contributing player and I hope he does, too.  Doesn't have to start, but I think he can still help us win.

Rasheed Worrell also had a big game, scoring 11 points making everything.....4 FGs and 3 FTs.  He also added 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.  He has been coming on.  Until the suspensions, he had not played 15 minutes in any MAC game, but he has been over 20 in 3 of the last 4.  Wiggins is seeing a little less time, with 2 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes.  I think he's struggling on the defensive end and he is having his own little slump.  Still have confidence in him, too.

Denny and Ali, for their parts, had pretty inefficient 10-point games.

So here's the reset.

BG is tied for the last home berth.

If BG wins both of their remaining games, they need NIU to lose one of their last 2, which I think is likely.  There might be some other scenarios with 3-4 way ties from one of the 9-7 teams, but with 9 wins I think BG would be hard pressed not to get the home game.

Now, if BG only wins one of the games, then they need NIU to lose both of their games, which could happen.  If that happened, BG would be at home, probably against NIU.  If UT lost out and tied BG and NIU and 8-10, NIU, BG would still be 9th.

So, BG needs help.  Their last 2 games are tough.  Kent is playing really well, just watched them rally to beat OU and Buffalo is playing well, too.  Two wins would be huge, but is going to be tough, and one win is not going to be a picnic.  But that's what is ahead of us.

Friday, February 24, 2017

BG Picks up MBB Verbal from Latvia

BG has landed what would appear to be its 5th recruit for next season.  This guy is really interesting.  His name is Matiss Kulackovskis and he is from Saldus, Latvia.  He came to the US to try and get a basketball scholarship, attending Archbishop Ryan in Philly, where BG is recruiting hard.  He is BG's first Latvian basketball player (as far as I can recall), though BG did have Ralfs Freibergs on the hockey team.  Ralfs played for Latvia in the Olympics.

Kulackovskis follows another trend for BG's signees, which is to increase the team's overall length.  He is 6'7" but plays that stretch game you expect out of a European.  He scored 17.6 PPG and is an excellent 3FG shooter, which is a matchup problem in the MAC with his size.  There is an excellent article about him and his recruitment here.  

Basically, he is a later bloomer, struggled with confidence when he first arrived here (you trying moving to Latvia) but has emerged this year as a leader and as a player.  Once BG locked onto him they worked it hard until they landed him.  He doesn't have other offers, which could be because of the late blooming.  If you can get a guy like this it is like buying low on a stock that breaks out big.

Fans will be reminded a little of Dusan Radivojevic, a Dakich-era Serbian who had a similar physical profile.  He didn't work out terribly well here, though he transferred to Arkansas Tech, where he played effectively on a team that made the DII tournament and was ranked #1 for part of the year.  The coach of that team was Mark Downey, who was at BG for 1 year with Coach Jans.  Today Dusan is coaching in Brazil.

Anyway, BG badly needs an outside threat and if Matiss can be that guy he helps turn this program around.

BG returns the following 9 players who are on scholarship right now.  The 5 recruits would put them one over the limit of 13.  My guess is that Matt Fox's scholarship is year to year.  Also, you never know if someone else doesn't return.

  1. Wiggins
  2. Hluchoweckyj
  3. Caldwell
  4. Frye 
  5. Turner
  6. Lillard
  7. Uju
  8. Fox
  9. Worrell

Welcome to the Falcons, Matiss.

Can BG Keep it Up?

If they do for four hours, we will call a Dr.


So the beat goes on.  BG heads to Oxford to play the last place Miami RedHawks.  As noted earlier in the week, BG's has long a long shot at a home berth, but it is a shot.  Miami is in last place and it isn't close.  They are 2 full games behind EMU, the next worst team.  At 3-12 in MAC play, these are almost certain to be the final days of the Cooper era at Millet Hall.  Miami has simply never had a period like this...where they were not one of the dominant programs in the MAC.  Someone (if they choose right) is heading into a very good situation, actually.  But, for now, things are tough.

BG won the first game at the Stroh, 83-72.  Miami is not a good shooting team, but they shot it well against BG in that matchup.  However, they had a staggering number of turnovers.  Likely MAC FOY of the year Michael Weathers had 10 on his own.  Meanwhile, BG shot the ball pretty well, took OK care of it but added huge offensive rebounding numbers and a +11 advantage at the FT line to get the win.  Wes Alcegaire scored 25 with 6 3FGs.  Hluchoweckyj (who played 0 minutes in the Akron game) scored 10 and Denny contributed 10 on 7 FTs off the bench.  Jake Wright led MU with 16 points.

Looking at the whole season now, you see a big spread on the left hand side of this chart.  MU is the worst offensive team in the MAC and BG is the 11th best defensive team.  So, that's a crap shoot, pretty much.  On the other side, BG is 10th in offense while Miami is 8th in defense.  Here, we just wonder which Bowling Green team shows up.  You can obviously score on Miami, but BG needs to bring their shooting.

Miami comes by their last-place offensive rating honestly.  They are 9th in overall shooting, last in turnovers and 10th in offensive rebounding.  Their only really strong point is getting to the line.  In the first game, they shot well against BG (the worst FG defense in the MAC) but threw it away with 34% turnovers.  That will be the test in this one.  They are 6th in getting to the FT line and make 72%, which is in the middle of the MAC.  They are the worst 3FG shooting team in the MAC and 6th in making 2FGs.

Flipping it around, Miami is relatively easy to shoot against.  The number you see there is #10 in the MAC.  The only thing Miami does well is cause some turnovers, which they are #2 in the MAC.  They give up a lot of offensive rebounds and FTs.  They are 10 in defending the 3FG and 7th in the 2FG.  BG, of course, is weak on many of these items as well.  It will be an interesting element to the game.

Michael Weathers still leads MU is scoring with 14.3 PPG on a struggling 39% and 16% shooting (MAC Play).  That's a couple points below his season average.  He also had 4.7 APG and about 2 steals per game.  Logan McLane is their inside threat, with 13.9 PPG and 7.2 RPG on 53% shooting.  Marcus Weathers is scoring 11 PPG on 54% shooting and 6.3 RPG.

This is a game BG should win.  However, all 3 of MU's MAC wins have been at home.  Even so, after the big win Tuesday, BG has the chance to finish the season strong as it builds toward the future and with a loss here, that apple loses a little bit of the polish.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Zip Streak Snapped!

So when the boss said they needed me on a business trip on Tuesday out of town, I was like, well, I'm going to miss the Akron game, but, you know, we know how those usually turn out.  And we were playing very poorly heading into the game.

Sigh.  Wouldn't you know it?

Anyway, I might have been the only beneficiary of the late start.  I was able to listen to the Walker/Cowan call for the second half of what was a very exciting game.

OK.  That breaks the 17-game losing streak to Akron--something that should never happen to a team in our conference.  Interestingly, Coach Huger told the Sentinel after the game they HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT THE STREAK and "doesn't pay attention to stuff like that."

OK, then. Surely, he knows that is the first time he's beaten Akron, right?

I'm proud of our guys.  They have broken two long streaks--UT and Akron--and those go on the highlight reel for a season that has not been terribly distinguished.  I wish we brought a "big game" effort more often since we are clearly capable of it.  I'm sure that's on Coach's mind as well.

Be that as it may.  We are glad for the win at any rate.  It is significant and I'm especially glad that the late heroics were Denny and Alcegaire, both of whom might have played their last game against Akron.

Here's where we stand right now....BG is just one game out of one of those home berths.  Let's just say BG won @Miami and beat Kent next Tuesday.  We would finish 8-10.  NIU just needs one win to beat BG, which I would see them getting in one of their 3 games, but not for sure.  The other team is UT.  We split with them, so I don't know where the tie-breaker goes.  Anyway, they have two home games and then EMU, so I think they end up with 9 wins.  In general, it looks tough.  But who knows.

BG led the game most of the way.  Akron jumped up 11-5 and then BG went on a 14-0 to go up 8 with 12 minutes left in the game.  BG continued to build the lead up to 12.  Akron continued to battle and got it to 5 by last in the half before BG scored to lead by 7 at the half.

BG came out hot in the 2nd half and had the lead up to 11.  Akron went on a run and got it to 3 with 14 minutes left, 1 with 11 minutes left and they tied the game with 8 minutes.  Akron finally took the lead back with 2:26 left in the game.  Here, you just have to have the feeling that things are going the way they often do, with BG playing Akron tough for a long time, but in the crunch minutes the Zips push their foot down on the pedal.

Wes Alcegaire nailed a 3 to put BG back up 1.  Denny got a steal on the next Akron possession and was fouled, but he missed the front end of the 1-1.  Akron cleared the board and went to Johnson for a layup to put the Zips back up 1 with 1:32.

At that point, you felt like BG might have missed a pretty big opportunity.  Frye missed a 3FG and things were looking rough.  However, this time when the Zips fed the ball to Johnson, Denny got the steal.  BG took the ball into Alcegaire who missed the layup.  However, this time Wiggins took the offensive board, worked the ball and with :20 left Zack Denny nailed a jumper to put BG back up 1.

Akron called timeout and worked a play to get the ball to Johnson, who made a layup with :07 left.  Akron back up 1 again.  Without a timeout, BG ran the ball down the floor and Alcegaire drove to the basket, collided with Johnson and BG got the call.  By all accounts, it could have gone either way, but this one went BG's way.  Even so, this is far from a done deal.  BG was still in the 1-1 and Alcegaire is only making 58% this year.  This time, he was clutch, though.  He made both ends and BG was up 1 and had a thrilling victory in hand.

As noted, this is one that could have gone bad and was pointing toward Akron grinding out a victory in the last minutes.  But, this time, BG got a couple key stops and made the FTs they really needed with :07 left.

The key to the victory was that Akron didn't make any shots.  You know, I've written for a while that BG is the easiest team in the MAC to shoot against, but in this case Akron found it hard to get shots to fall.  BG held them to .93 points per possession, their best defensive game since Ball State.  That 43% EFG is BG's best effort since the Alabama A&M game, and they are...literally...the worst team in the country.

For that matter, it was Akron's 3rd worst shooting game of the year and their worst in the MAC.  BG didn't shoot great, but it was better than Akron shot.  And then, BG did a much better job on turnovers.  BG had only 8 turnovers for the game and Akron had 14.  Those two factors together were enough to get BG the win.  Nobody did any real offensive rebounding or FT shooting.  There were only 31 fouls in the entire game.

BG was led by its guards.  Zack Denny had 20 points on 7 of 17 shooting and 2 of 5 shooting.  He also added 10 rebounds and 4 steals.  Dylan Frye had 22 points on 9 of 12 shooting and 3 of 5 shooting.  Wiggins and Alcegaire both had terrible shooting nights...except for Alcegaire getting the shots needed at the end and Wiggins getting the big offensive board before Denny's basket.   He had 9 for the game along with 4 blocked shots.

So on the season goes.  This was a big win.  As Coach said after the game, Akron is the model.  You want to be Akron.  They are consistently good, year in and year out.  And you can't have a team in your conference that you lose 17 straight to.  Now, to Oxford, the most winnable game left on the schedule.  Let's hope BG delivers it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Akron Trail of Tears Continues

So it is time for the BG-Akron rematch.  You know the storyline.  Akron has beaten BG in 17 straight games and 25 out of the last 26.  When the games tips off it will be 2,914 days since BG beat Akron.

The two teams opened the MAC season at the JAR.  At the time I said it was the best game BG had played all season, and it might still be.  Now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Akron led for 32 minutes.  However, they only won by 5 and more of what we saw last Saturday in Athens is what we would have expected.

Honestly, this team is capable of rallying like they did against UT in an "important" game and putting something together.  That's the saddest part of it all.

There's no doubt, Akron is the best team in the MAC this year.  They are 12-2 in the conference and they have already clinched one of the top 4 seeds.  They are 22-5 overall and have a kempom of 103. Their RPI is 47, if you are looking at something a little more conventional.   Right now, Lunardi has them as a #13 seed.

Their only MAC losses are @Buffalo and at home to Kent, which broke a 30-game home winning streak.

I've said it before, this is a great program and they are a very good team.  They know how to win.  In this first game, when BG got it close the Zips found a gear and pushed the lead back out again.

Here's the stats from that game.  BG shot well but Akron shot much better.  However, the Zips turned the ball over.  They are super tough on the baords, and they showed it and they ended up at the line...well...a lot.

Akron plays an interesting style.  They play at the 2nd slowest pace in the MAC, yet they are #2 in offensive efficiency.  And let there be no doubt.  If BG doesn't figure out how to keep the ball out of the paint, Akron will drive it there all day with relentless efficiency.

And, as we always seem to say, as good as Akron is on offense, BG is that poor on defense.

Akron is not a great defensive team.  That rating is 7th in the MAC.  (This is in the weeds, but that's not a very big spread for a team with only 5 losses, which is why their Kenpom ranking isn't very high).

Anyway, BG is 10th in the MAC in offense.  Clearly, the opportunity to score on Akron exists.  Whether BG takes advantage of it--as they did against UT, which had a similar defensive profile, well, that remains to be seen.

Akron is #3 in the MAC in shooting and BG is last in FG defense, which is what you see there.  I doubt if Akron plays many teams who give up a higher percentage than they shoot.  Although they did not take care of the ball well in the first game, they have in general.  They lead the MAC in turnover%.  They are not great on the boards and they are 2nd in the MAC in getting to the FT line.

They are #2 in the MAC in terms of attempting 3FGs.  They are, however, only #6 in making them.  In both of their MAC losses they shot under 25% from 3FG.  They've also won 3 games with a similar 3FG%.  Anyway, that's not great for them, given the volume of shots.  They are #2 in 2FG shooting and not good at the FT line, #11.

Flipping it around, Akron is strongest at protecting the defensive boards, where they lead the MAC.  They force very few turnovers and are 7th in EFG%.  They are 5th in the MAC allowing teams to the line.  As noted above, they are just an average defensive team.  BG will need to get some shots to fall to take advantage.  BG is #10 in shooting in the MAC and #270 in the country.  Akron is the easiest team to shoot 3FGs against in the MAC, so you'd like to think you had a shot at making that work.  It wouldn't on the surface appear to be something BG is well poised to do, but you never know.

Akron is led by Isaiah Johnson.  He's scoring 16.7 PPG on 63% shooting and 7.25 RPG.  He is a poor FT shooter, so there might be something there.   He's #8 in scoring and rebounding, #1 in FG% and #13 in assists in the MAC.

They also feature Kwan Cheatam a 6'10" Sr.  He has 12 PPG and 7 RPG, shooting 42% and 40%. Antino Jackson scores 12 PPG and adds 3 assists.  He is efficient, shooting 46% and 42% from 3 FG.  Jimond Ivey is a 6'4" SO who scores almost 10, adds 6 rebounds and shoots 46%.  Finally, Daniel Utomi is a 6'6" FR who is leading the MAC making 50% from 3FG.

In game 1, Wiggins had a big game.  That would help this time as well, but he's going to have to play enough defense to stay on the floor to make that happen.

Anyway, the odds are strongly against BG in this game.  Certainly, a victory is possible, but Akron would be heavily favored.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

OU Stomps BG

For the first 13 minutes of today's game, BG was playing pretty well.  Shots were falling and stops were being made...BG led 29-23.  For the last 7 minutes of the first half and the first 7 minutes of the second half, however, BG collapsed on both ends of the floor and was outscored 40-14 over that 14 minutes span.  That put OU up by 20, which was the final margin of victory, 95-75.   BG was only 4 points worse with 2 football players on the court.

BG did get the margin to 10 with 8 minutes left.  It never got closer and was 16 with 4:41 left.  OU led by as many as 28 and hit 95 points with 2 minutes left and didn't score again during garbage time.

This team is just a mess right now.  You can listen to Coach's presser, he's very frustrated.  BG cannot stop the drive at all and conference basketball is ruthless.  Until you do, that's all you will see.  In fact, as coach pointed out, OU is a 3FG shooting team and they drove on BG.

Meanwhile, on the other end, BG's can't make shots--Huger cited missing open 3FGs and layups as being a problem.  When BG got it "close" in the second half, BG started to take bad shots.  Coach says the team is inconsistent.  At the end of his second season, you don't necessarily expect to see the talent reversed but these kinds of things not being fixed eventually reflects on the staff.

And as Coach points out, if they don't get it figured out, it is going to be an ugly finish to the season.

Here's the way the numbers sort out.  As you can see, BG had a subpar shooting game and OU had an incredible shooting game.  That shooting % is the worst BG has allowed since that November of 2011 game against GW in (IIRC) the pre-season NIT at the Stroh.  OU shot 74% from 2FG and 45% from 3FG.  BG is the easiest team to shoot on in the conference and they were bad even by their own standards.  In fact, they are #310 in the country.

OU even had more turnovers than BG and won the game by 20 and it should have been more.  BG shot 45% and 33%.

That all equals out to 1.31 points per possession for OU and 1.04 for BG.  That scoring for OU is the best for a BG opponent that wasn't named Cincinnati.

BG wasn't solid on the boards either.  The game was refreshing foul free.  OU only tried 12 FTs and made 10 and BG was 12 of 17.

Individually, BG was led by Rod Caldwell with 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 3 assists over 2 TOs.  Wiggins had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 6 rebounds in only 18 minutes, which might seem odd.  Coach singled out his big men for poor defense on ball screens and said teams are exploiting it.  I'm guessing that includes Wiggins.  That's the only reason he wouldn't be on the floor more for a team starved for bigs.

Denny also had 11 on 4 of 7 shooting.  Alcegaire had 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting.  He joined Lillard and Frye in having very long shooting nights.

All the OU starters ended up in double figures.  Jaaron Simmons had his way with BG from the start to the finish.  As Coach said, they tried numerous things on him and "nothing works."  Simmons ended up with 26 points on 10 of 12 shooting, 3 of 4 from 3FG, 3 of 4 from the line, and 11 assists over 4 turnovers.  Hard to have a better night than that.

Lastly, watch out for Jason Carter.  The FR had 19 on 9 of 11 shooting and 5 rebounds.  He's going to be a very good player in this conference.

Here's the story, sad but true.  BG is in 11th place and is 1 game out of a home berth.  However, there are 3 teams ahead of them and none of them have to play Akron and Buffalo in their final four games.  And, they all play each other. Tuesday Akron is at the Stroh and then BG is a Millet on Saturday.  BG found the ability to play well in the first Akron game and maybe they will this time, too, as they did against Toledo.

Saturday in the Convo

So, BG now enters the Convo on Saturday.  Things are rough, as BG plays Ohio and then Akron in the next two games.  BG is 5-8 in the MAC.  Last year they were 5-13 and there's only one really good chance to win on the schedule and that's @Miami.

We won't spend too much time talking about the first OU game at the Stroh because that was the game when BG had the four players suspended and used two football players and OU won 96-72.  Not much to draw from that.

OU is one of the stronger teams in the MAC at 8-5.  They were 3-0 when MAC POTY Antonio Campbell went down.  To their credit, however, they beat Akron since that and have won on the road four times.  Weirdly, they have lost 3 of their last 4 at the Convo.

Anyway, they are clearly in the conversation for a bye and remain one of the most consistent programs in the MAC.

OU's is strong on both ends of the court...and BG is as weak as they are strong.  OU is 5th in the MAC in offense and third in defense.  BG is 10th in both.

OU is very strong on 3 of the 4 areas.  They are 3rd in shooting, 3rd in taking care of the ball and 1st in getting to the FT line, something that looks worrisome following the game in K-zoo on Tuesday.  Their only weakness is that they don't offensive rebound.  They are last in that.  As noted here numerous times, BG is the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC, so that's not a great matchup.

In terms of shooting profile, they are 3FG focused team.  They are 3rd in the MAC in terms of how many 3FGs they take and they are 2nd in making 40%.  They are 5th in 2FGs.  BG is going to need to guard the perimeter effectively if they are going to have a chance to compete.  They are 8th in the MAC in FT shooting.

As noted, they are a very strong defensive team.  This comes from excelling in one thing, really.  They are the hardest team to shoot against in the MAC.  They have the best 3FG defense and are 5th in 2FG defense.  BG is the 10th ranked shooting team in the MAC, and this is the key dynamic on this end.  BG is going to have to make some stops to be competitive.  The remainder of OU's defense is nothing special, though they are also pretty good at keeping teams off the FT line.

The biggest factor in their continuing success without Campbell is Jaaron Simmons.  In MAC play, he is averaging 17 PPG and over 6 assists per game.  He shoots 45% and 40%.  He's a really good player.  The only thing to put a little perspective on those numbers is that he never comes off the floor.  He plays almost 37 minutes a game.  He's 24th in the country in % of minutes played.

Jordan Dartis never comes off the floor either.  He plays 35 minutes  game at the other guard spot.  He scores 14.5 PPG on 50% overall shooting and 49% from 3FG, which is 3rd in the MAC.  He also makes 87% of his FTs.  This is a very efficient offensive player and he's a SO.

Kenny Kaminski is a SR Forward.  At 6'8" he's more of a stretch guy.  He is scoring 11.6 PPG on 39% shooting and 43% 3FG shooting.  He's also an excellent FT shooter.  Jason Carter, a 6'8" FR is scoring 10.9 PPG and grabbing 7 RPG.  He's likely to be all-FR.  He's shooting 47%, which is just OK for a big man.

This looks to be a tough matchup for BG.  OU's kenpom is 104 and BG's best current win is over Kent at 165.  This would be BG's biggest win of the season and a pretty big upset.  Sometimes those things happen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ugly Game Draws Huger Ire

It was ugly, my friends.  I didn't see the game--I had the Todd Walker feed--but you play a 40 minutes game and there are 53 fouls called?  That's just not what anyone wants to see.  As Walker kept saying, the game had no flow.

It went a little farther than that.  BG had 30 of the 53 called against them.  Coach Huger was relatively frustrated and outspoken in the post-game...and in a way that I suspect will get him a letter from the MAC office.  He felt that the calls against BG were bad but also not being called evenly.  "If you are going to make a bad call, make it both ways," he said.

BG played most of the game with players in foul trouble.  Ali, Caldwell and Alcegaire all fouled out, Frye had 4 and Denny 3.

It wasn't the only factor.  He also said that BG missed open shots in the 2nd half, and did a poor job on the defensive boards.  And that's pretty much what you see below.

The shooting was pretty even and neither team took good care of the ball.  However, WMU had 11 offensive rebounds on 28 opportunities--and almost all of those in the 2nd half--and BG had 8 of 35.  And, WMU had an incredible 31 of 37 at the line and BG was 17 of 25.  Thomas Wilder was 15 for 15.

So, you're 14 down on FTs and you lose by 10...that's your problem right there.  I didn't see the game so I don't have any real comment on the officiating, except to say that Huger isn't a perpetual whiner about officiating (cough cough Dan Dakich) so it carries some weight that he was upset about this.

If you are curious, WMU had this kind of FT rate last year when the teams played, but BG won.  Maybe if Hawkins is fired we can get away from games like this.  The last time BG allowed a higher FT rate was in December 2012 at Valpo.

Individually, Rod Caldwell led BG with 15 points.  That's 3-8 shooting (3-7 from 3FG) and 6-6 from the line.  He also had 3 assists and 1 turnover.  Frye had 13 on 5 of 10 shooting and 4 assists over 1 turnover.  Denny had a very efficient 13...4 of 6 shooting...and Alcegaire had 11 on 4 of 8 shooting.  Wiggins led the team with 7 rebounds (but shot only 3 of 7) and Worrell had 6.  Ali had 1 assist and 3 TOs in 15 minutes.

So, here is where things stand now.  BG is right where they were predicted to be, which is ahead of Miami with only East games left to go and only 2 home games.  However, the last home spot (#8) is only one game away, but that's a complicated story that won't be answered in the positive for BG until they can win some more games.  If they beat Miami and Kent, they'd finish 7-11.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Playing the Broncos in their Corral

So next up is the last team in the MAC that BG has yet to see...the WMU Broncos.  This is a team that has been strong for a long time but has kind of bumped up against some struggles.  I guess there's some talk that Steve Hawkins, the dean of MAC Coaches, will be in his last year there.  Anyway, they started out 2-6 in MAC play but now they have won 3 of the last 4, which is winning against Ohio, @Miami and NIU and a loss @CMU.  Their only home loss in MAC play has been to Akron.

They are 5-7 in MAC play, which is the same record BG has.  This is also one of BG's more winnable games on the road home, and this is one you're going to need to try and get home court, which will be tough enough with a win.

Looking at the basic matchup, WMU is the 4th best offensive team in the MAC and BG is 10th on defense.  On the other side, BG is 10th on offense and WMU is 11th on defense.

So, this is interesting in a little geeky way.  So BG and WMU are  5-7.  You'd expect that with record that a team would have scored roughly what they have given up.  And WMU has...but BG has allowed a lot more than they have scored.  It's because of BG's high number of blowout losses and close wins, which skew the results. (There have been 9 games in MAC play that ended up +20 and BG is on the losing side of 2).

So, as we have seen often, WMU is relatively easy to shoot against.  BG is 10th in the MAC in shooting, however.  The turnovers and reboundings are pretty typical and even.  WMU has always played physical ball under Hawkins and they do let teams to the line a lot.  BG will need to do better getting to the line and making them....BG is last in the MAC in FT%. 

So, on the other side, WMU is a decent shooting team...that figure below is #6 in the MAC, while BG's FG defense is last in the MAC.  They need to get some missed shots to have a chance to compete in this game.  They also take really good care of the ball are good at offensive rebounding and average at getting to the FT line.  They make 71% of their FTs.

Much like BG's other opponents, they don't shoot a lot of 3FGs.  They are 10th in trying 3FGs and 3rd in making them and 7th at making 2FGs.  They have a lot of players who are in the 6'8" range that BG is going to have to handle in the paint better than they did Saturday against Buffalo.

WMU is led by Thomas Wilder, a 6'3" JR G who is scoring 18 PPG on 45% shooting overall and 44% on 3FGs.  That's very efficient and #4 in the MAC.  He also has 3.7 per assists per game.

Their second leading scorer is Tuckey Haymond.  He's a 6'6" SR scoring 14 PPG on 45% and 40% shooting.  Their leading rebounder is 7'0" Seth Dugan at 5.4 rebounds per game in 19 minutes.  They also have FR Brandon Johnson at 6'8" getting 5.2 RPG in 23 minutes

Anyway, BG has been playing better until last Saturday.  They need to resurrect their 40-minute focus...and it wouldn't be terrible to fix the interior defense we saw on Saturday.  WMU plays a tough, physical game, something BG had trouble with against Buffalo.

One last piece of news, Coach announced Saturday that Turner and Uju will both redshirt this year and will not return. They will join a four-person FR class bringing new blood into the Falcon program next season.

Buffalo Pounds Falcons

BG's 3 game winning streak came to an end at the Stroh Saturday, and it was a game that clearly showed who the better team was, with UB winning 88-74.

BG came out playing like the team we hoped we were evolving into.  BG led the entire first half and by as much as 8 at one point.  The Falcons were up 3 at the break.

In the second half, UB just showed that they are a much tougher and more resilient team.  Much like when we play Akron, we were playing against a team that just knows how to win games and how to take their play up a notch.  Punched in the mouth, BG had no response this time.  BG had played two long, high-energy games before this, but this is what conference play requires and the Bulls had it and the Falcons didn't.  As Coach said after the game, we need to get more mentally tough.

Buffalo tied the game 2 minutes into the 2nd half and then had a lead a minute later.  With about 15 minutes left, UB had a 1-point lead.  Then they went on a 16-2 run over the next 5 minutes to essentially win the game.  They pounded the ball inside relentlessly and effectively while BG was unable to get inside on its end, turning the ball over and missing outside shots.  Coach Huger tried some different combinations, but none of them were able to get things resolved.

BG never got the lead inside 10.  With about 5 minutes left they got it to 11, but the Bulls turned it back on again, scoring the next 6 points.

So, here's the story of the game and it is pretty clear.  BG is the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC and that was clear here.  BG is also the easiest team to shoot 2FGs against.  The Falcons had 1-point per possession, which is below the league average.  The Falcons did shoot above average, with 42% on 2FGs and a strong 48% on 3FGs.  However, Buffalo shot an incredible 74% on their 2FGs and 36% on their 3FGs.  The 74% is the highest allowed under Coach Huger.  The Bulls ended up with 1.19 points per possession.

This is the 7th time this year BG has allowed 60% EFG or more in a MAC game.  The best shooting team in the country only averages 61.5%.  BG has been consistently allowing that kind of shooting over recent games and winning because they have been shooting well.  I don't think we are likely to stay successful, however, on that model.  

BG was helped by turnovers.  Buffalo shot well the whole game but had turnovers early and then eliminated them when they made their run.  They had a good day on the offensive boards--BG seemed to just drop several defensive rebounds--and then the FT was a disaster.  BG's 2 defense is poor which leads to baskets and fouls.  UB was 17 of 26 at the line, which is only 65%, but BG was 7 of 13, which is 54%.

Individually, Dylan Frye had a big game for the Falcons.  He scored 20 points in 25 minutes, on 8 of 14 and 4 of 7 shooting and added 7 rebounds.  Zack Denny had 12 points on 5 of 11 and 2 of 2 shooting.  BG's PGs both had 8 points, but Caldwell only shot 3 of 9 and Ali had 3 assists and 3 steals to go with 4 turnovers.  Wiggins had 8 rebounds but saw his FTs continue to regress (3-7).  Alcegiare and Lillard continued to struggle to make shots.

I like Buffalo.  Akron is clearly the favorite to win the MAC, but I would not count Buffalo out in the tournament.  They are tough and they have strong players at numerous positions.  I'm not sure they have enough to handle Johnson on the inside, but we shall see.  Beyond that, they asserted themselves in the 2nd half against BG and the Falcons didn't have a response.

I would circle the AK @ UB game on your calendar.  Right now, with Campbell out, I think those are the two best teams in the MAC.

Here's how things look it we started the tournament now.  BG woiuld be on the road, but has the same record as the last team with a home spot, which is EMU.  BG has a tougher road, because with 6 games left they have 4 away games and EMU has 3, WMU has 2 and KSU had 3.  Also, BG loses the tiebreaker to EMU.  Which means that the game Tuesday is important or even critical for BG's chances to getting that home game, which are slim anyway.  WMU is not a great team and if BG is going to rally with a strong road performance, this would be the time to do it.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Buffalo Comes to Town

So here come the Buffalo Bulls.  This is going to be interesting.  First, BG has won three straight games for the first time in the Huger era.  They had a nice crowd for the UT game and rewarded the fans with a win.  Hopefully, some of those people will be back.  With the logjammed MAC, both teams are in the running for a home spot or even, at least mathematically, a bye.

Buffalo started 3-5 in MAC play, but since then they have also won 3 in a row.  They beat CMU by 10 in Buffalo, won @Ball State by 27 and then beat NIU by 20.  So, they have been winning and blowing people out of late.  They lost to Miami...and @UT by 32.

And, they are two-time defending MAC Champions.

So, starting at the top...the UB defense is 3rd in the MAC and BG is 10th, so that's actually a pretty even match up.  Where the difference comes is on offense for UB.  It is interesting...UB is 8th in offense and BG is 8th in defense, which oddly leaves BG allowing more points than UB is used to scoring.  A little about the UB hot streak in a second, but for now it would appear to me that BG's ability to defend is going to be key to winning the game.

We will start with the close one first.  As you can see, what BG is used to doing offensively is what UB is used to allowing.  Which is not too much.  They are 2nd at defending the shot and 4th and keeping teams off the boards.  The big difference is at the FT line.  UB is 10th in the MAC in allowing teams to the FT line.

On the other side of the ledger, we see stats for the entire MAC season.  UB is 9th in FG shooting, 6th at taking care of the ball, 4th at offensive rebounding and 8th at getting to the FT line.  You always look here for the spreads...and it comes on the most important factor.  BG is 11th defending the shot, so you have a poor shooting team against a poor FG defense team.

One thing that's interesting is that until their last game, UB had been very hot shooting.  Counting the Akron 1-point loss, the CMU win and the Ball State win, UB shot 45%, 42% and 46% from 3FG.  They had over 1.2 points per possession in each of the games.  (The NIU win they got when NIU couldn't make any shots at all). 

So, anyway, that makes them a different team, as we see here.  For the year, UB is last in the MAC in 3FG% and 4th in the rate they try them.  Unless BG shoots as well as they did against UT, they are going to need to get some stops to keep UB close.  

They are also pretty much as poor at shooting FTs as BG is.

UB has four players scoring in double figures (all games now).  Two are seniors and 2 are sophomores.  Their leading scorer is Blake Hamilton with a relatively inefficient 16.8 PPG on 42% shooting, 4.4 assists per game and 6.4 RPG.  

So. CJ Massinburg is scoring 14 PPG with pretty much the exactly shooting percentages as Hamilton.   Classmate Nick Perkins is scoring 13.9 PPG on 44% shooting and a team high 7.2 RPG.  G Willie Conner scores 12.9 PPG on 41% shooting.

Buffalo is playing really well and BG is playing as well as it has all season.  This is an opportunity to show some sustained success at home, where you need to win.  (Home teams are winning 59% of conference games, making the MAC the 15th toughest conference to win on the road in).  I have said several times this year that BG had yet to really exceed expectations at any point.  I'd say beating UT and Kent in the same week is the first time.  A 4th straight win would be a for sure.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Sweet Road Victory....

Are you kidding me?  I mean....are you kidding me?

After Saturday's 2 OT thriller, BG came back and played an overtime game at Kent.  This one was every bit the thriller that the UT game was.  OK, maybe not every bit, but certainly a thrilling game which saw BG rally from a nearly impossible position to win the game on the road, 84-83.

And yes, they caught a huge break from Kent at the end.  There are no bad road wins in conference play.  None.  K?

Well, and there's actually more to it than that.  BG was in the lead most of the way, and while you're not happy to blow a lead late, it wasn't like it was one-sided the whole way and BG snuck in at the end.  BG controlled the game most of the way, leading for almost 36 minutes out of 45.  Kent led for less than 4 minutes.

With 4 minutes left in the game, BG was up by 9 points.  BG had a couple empty possessions while Kent made 5 FTs to get the lead down to 4 with about 2:30 left.  Frye split a couple FTs and BG was up 5 again.  Zabo and Frye matched 2 FTS and BG was still up 5 with 2 minutes left.  Then, Kent drained a 3FG to get it to 2.  BG was back up 4 with 1:26 left when things quit bouncing back and forth.

BG forced a Kent missed shot but the Flashes got the board and hit a jumper.  Lillard missed for BG and Kent hit another jumper and the game was tied with :25.  BG had one of those possessions where you hold it until the end and worse you can do is OT.  Jimmy Hall blocked a Dylan Frye shot, it went OB and then Ish Ali missed a 3FG to end regulation.

Halfway through the overtime, both teams had only one basket and it was still tied, 77-77.  The game was tied at 79 with 1:20 to play.  And then there was a sequence that really should have been decisive for Kent.  Ridenour scored and then stole the ball from Lillard on the other end with :41 left.  They ran the clock to :14 and Ridenour scored again to put Kent up 4 with :14 left.  At this point, it should be over.

Rod Caldwell ran down the court and drained a 3FG with :09 left.  BG called time out.  Kent just had to inbound the ball, get a BG foul and make it very tough for the Falcons.  Instead, Kent inbounded the ball and essentially fumbled it out of bounds.  (Julian Edelman ain't walking through that door).  BG had the ball with :06 left.  No timeouts, so they inbound the ball.  It doesn't go well.  Caldwell launches a prayer, total airball, but Wiggins snatches the ball Lorenzo Charles style and puts it home to put BG ahead, however improbably.

There was 1.2 left.  Kent inbounded, BG knocked it OB.  After a long review, Kent got to inbound again and fired a shot up.  From Todd Walker's description, it looked like Worrell grabbed the ball below the rim as it came down, but Kent started to scream right away for goaltending.  This is exactly the kind of goofy call you can see the MAC's officials making, so you are kind of wincing a little bit.  But it was determined that there was no shot, so no goaltending and BG had its second straight overtime win.  (Here's the SportsCenter Clip)

On the stats, it was a little bit more of a normal game, with BG scoring 1.06 points per possession and Kent 1.05.  BG shot the ball fairly well--that's a couple points ahead of the NCAA average--and took good care of the ball.  The Falcons even had an decent/average day on the offensive boards.  Their biggest weakness was at the FT line, where they shot only 62%.

On defense, Kent shot about as well as BG did, however they had 6 additional turnovers--and one particularly deadly one.  BG also did a better than expected day on the defensive boards.  Kent was getting 40% and BG held them to 34%, which is good if not great.  And Kent got to the line less, though they made 82% and ended up +2 on FTs against BG.

BG was led by Matt Fox, who had a huge game with 5 of 7 from 3FG and 3 of 4 from the line to net out 18 points and a team-high.  He also had 3 assists and 0 turnovers.  Wiggins had 16 on 7 of 10 shooting (and one huge one) and 8 rebounds.  Rod Caldwell also had 16 on 4 of 6 3FG shooting (and one huge one).  Dylan Frye had 11 on a tough 3 of 9 shooting night.  He did make 5 of 6 from the line.  Interestingly, BG got production from guys who did not contribute as much in the UT game, whereas the big contributors in that game did not contribute much this game.

BG did good work on Jimmy Hall.  He scored 12 on 4 of 10 shooting and 8 turnovers.

Well, things are getting interesting.  As you can see, 9 of the 12 teams in the MAC have 6 wins or 5 wins.  Things are very log-jammed.  I said I was going to avoid getting too excited until BG had won 3 in a row, which they have now done.  Saturday will be very interesting.  Buffalo is just scorching hot right now.  Hopefully, everyone who was there for the game Saturday will be back and making noise.  This will be a good test for the guys.

MAC standings below, sans tiebreakers.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Flash Next

So, riding as high as they have in two years, BG now heads into one of the toughest places to win in the MAC...which is, HA, the MAC Center in Kent, Ohio.  But seriously, this is historically a tough place to win.  Now, this isn't the greatest Kent team.  In fact, after years of being the MAC's signature program, they are now located firmly in the middle of the conference.  They are 13-10 overall and 5-5 in the MAC.

They are playing well.  They lost 4 out of 5 coming out of the box in the MAC but have won 4 out of 5 since then.  That includes at 24-point win over Toledo to go with wins @EMU, @NIU and @Miami.  Their only loss in the five games was at home to CMU, 100-90.

BG won its last game against Kent--in last year's MAC tournament in Kent--and has won two of the last 3 on the road against the Flashes.

The numbers below are for the MAC season as a whole.  These numbers show a slightly below average offensive team (#8) and a slightly above defensive team (#5).  (Interesting to note that the MAC is the #3 offensive conference in college basketball, based on offensive efficiency as noted on  Anyway, the key things is that in this five-game run where they have been winning, they have been playing much better defense, holding the teams in all the wins under 1 point per possessions.

To BG's advantage, Kent is not a great shooting team.  The Falcons remain 11th in the MAC in guarding the shot and have struggled in the last 3 games big time.  The Flashes are 8th in shooting.    Their weakest area is turnovers...they are #11 in the MAC in turning the ball over.  However, they are leading the MAC in offensive rebounding percentage, while will put pressure on the Falcons.  They 8th in the MAC in getting to the line but 4th in FT shooting.

They are a very typical 3-shooting team.  They are 7th in the MAC in the number of 3s taken and 7th in percentage made.  They are 9th in the MAC in 2 FG%.

Now, when looking at the Kent defense. we see a team that is 5th defending the shot going against the worst FG shooting team in the MAC, even after the UT game.  They are also 5th in creating turnovers and 8th in protecting the boards and free throw rate.  They have been especially good in their little four-game run, holding the opponents in all their wins to 47% or under (or, below BG's last-place season percentage) and under 42% in 3 of the wins.  This is going to be the challenge for BG.  They scored against a UT team that is poor defensively, but can they score enough (and play better defense) in this game in order to get a third straight MAC win for the first time in the Huger era.

Individually, the Flashes offer two-time All-MAC first team forward Jimmy Hall.  He averages a double-double, with 18.5 ppg and 10.8 PPG.  He shoots 50% (good but not incredible for a big man) and averages 2.6 assists per game.  Thankfully, after this year we are done with him.  If you saw what Taylor and Johnson have done to BG....this is a similar challenge.  He's less of a body overall but he's a better player, probably.

Their second leading scorer is Jaylin Walker, a 6'1"G from Romulus MI who has apparently declared himself an apostate to Nate Oates.  Walker is very good.  He has moved in and out of the starting lineup but averages 14.4 PPG.  He shoots a lot.  He shoots 38% overall and 33% on 3FGs.  He also averages less than an assist per game.

The last double-figure scorer is Deon Edwin.  He's a 6'3" SR who was a JUCO transfer.  He scores 13 PPG on 48% shooting and 37% from 3FG.

Kent plays a deep rotation, essentially playing 10 guys for at least 10 minutes per game.

So, on we go.  To win, BG has to rally emotionally and bring enough intensity to compete with the Flashes.  It won't be easy, but if BG can build on the UT game and play with confidence, Kent is far from unbeatable, even if they are playing well.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Falcons Break Streak, beat Rockets in Classic. Part II

So how did it happen?  How did BG end up with the win over the Rockets in Saturday's thriller?

Well, the first thing you can see is that BG shot the ball very well.  That's their best shooting in a Division I game since 2012.  That's better than they shot this year against Alabama A&M (the worst team in D1 basketball), Norfolk State, Morgan get the idea.

Our preview had noted that UT is a poor defensive team but cast doubt on whether BG had the horsepower to exploit it.  Turns out we did.

BG shot 59% overall and 75% from 3FG. Perhaps the key to the whole thing was that BG tried on 12 3FGs in 50 minutes.  They committed to getting to the rim and it worked.  BG made 55% of their 2FGs.  (The Falcons were also 8 of 10 shooting in the overtime periods).

It's a good thing.  Because the Rockets also shot the lights out, making 51% of their 2FGs and 50% of their 3FGs...and they tried 28 3FGs.  (The shooting defense for BG is an ongoing concern.  BG has allowed over 65% EFG% in its last three games and in 6 of their 10 MAC games.)

Overall, BG had 1.28 points per possession and UT had 1.23.  As you can see below, BG took better care of the ball, with a +5 advantage in turnovers.  And BG took advantage at the line.  BG was 21 of 32 at the line and UT was 14 out of 24, most of which came from Stevie Taylor, who was only 4 of 11 from the line.,.the Falcons appeared to be using a Hack-a-Taylor strategy, which was good, because it was the only thing that slowed that guy down.

On the individual side, BG had 2 seniors who played career games.

Zack Denny had 30 points on 8 of 11 shooting, 5 of 5 from 3FG and 8 of 11 from the line to go with 7 rebounds and six freaking steals.  Here's the thing.  He's really been struggling from 3FG.  He only had 4 3FGs in his last 5 games and was 4-24 over that stretch.  So he had been cold.  He's never made 5 3FGs in his BG career, much less make all 5.  Beyond that, he made them when BG had to have them, to tie the game in the first overtime and two in the final minutes of the second overtime plus two vital FTs.  He scored BG's last 10 points of the game.  That's rising to the occasion.

Wes Alcegaire also had a big night.  He scored 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting and 2-2 from 3FG to go with 5 rebounds.  He had three straight baskets in the first overtime to bring BG back from the dead when they trailed by 7 with 90 seconds left.

Demajeo Wiggins had 16 points and 7 rebounds on 8 of 13 shooting.  He really struggled in the first half--both defending Taylor and making shots.  He had 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting in the second half in 15 minutes.

Antwon Lillard had 12 on 4 of 8 shooting in his best game in over a month.  Finally, not to be forgotten, Ish Ali had 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting and 7 assists and 1 turnover...that one at the end of regulation.

A couple line up notes.  BG started their "suspension" starting line up, but in OT it was Wiggins, Alcegaire, Denny and Ali who played all 10 minutes.

Another key might have been BG's deep rotation.  No starter for UT played less than 44 minutes.  No one for BG played more than than 42.  The UT starters played 231 of the game's 250 minutes.  You have to believe that had an impact on those final possessions.

Anyway, that's the story in two posts.  BG and UT are both 4-6 in MAC play.  If the season ended today, they would both be on the road for the MAC tournament, though the middle is bunched up.  (Note, no tiebreakers applied).

 This is BG's first back-to-back MAC win this year.  Next week is tough...@Kent and a red-hot Buffalo team at home the next Saturday.  BG's got to get the defensive side sorted out to get consistent wins, but for now, this is one to savor.

Falcons Break Streak, beat Rockets in Classic. Part I

Wow.  What a day.  BG and UT matched up for 169th time on Saturday at the Stroh.  The two teams have played some great games over the year and had some titanic battles, but this one has to join the list and be near the top.  It is one of the best basketball games I have seen in years and one of the best sporting events I have attended in years.  Huge drama, great crowd, big rivalry, back-and-forth play.  My adrenaline was still pumping 6 hours after the game was over.

As you know by now, BG was a double-overtime game, 104-100.  As far as I can tell, it is the first double overtime game in the history of the rivalry.  It snaps a losing streak for BG and gave Coach Huger his first win over UT....and this is a guy who gets the rivalry. It was a great night.

It did not start out great.  BG got off to one of their patented poor starts, down 12-2 less than 4 minutes into the game.  BG battled back and had the game tied with about 9 minutes left in the first half.  From there it was a closely fought thing.  UT was on a late-half run (as they did in the first game) and had a six-point lead when Malik Hluckoweckyj was in transition, made a move in the open court that put a defender on his butt and hit a layup to cut the lead to 4 at the half.  Big play, sent the teams into the locker room with a different demeanor.

UT started fast in the second half as well, with a 7-1 run that put them up 10.  They had that lead solidly until there were 10 minutes left, when they led by 7.  BG went on a 6-0 run there to get it to 1...featuring two steals by Zack Denny...and from there on in, for the next 19 minutes of basketball, it was a dogfight.

With 1:52 left, Lillard made a layup and BG had a 1-point lead.  BG fouled Stevie Taylor on the other end--an effective strategy--and he missed both of his FTs.  Navigato committed a foul over the back on the FT and Wiggins made both of his FTs to put BG up 3 with 1:31 left.

UT had a time out and when they had the ball Sanford drove to the baseline, drew help and then kicked the ball to a wide open Jonathan Williams in the corner and he drained the 3 to tie the game.

Both coaches cited defensive errors by their own team as a key factor in the game.  There was one for each.  In this case,  Coach said that BG was not supposed to help off Williams, yet "somehow, some way" we did and Williams made us pay.

The game was tied with 1:11 left.  BG had the ball, got Denny a good look from the top of the key, but he missed it.  UT got the board, called time out, and did what you would expect, which is to get the ball to Stevie Taylor, who was dominant all game.  He got the ball up on the rim from close range but it didn't go down and BG cleared the board.

At this point there were :07 left.  Ish Ali raced the ball up court, probably rushed it a little bit, went flying under the basket out of control.  There was contact, but you don't get bailed out in a situation like that.  He didn't get the shot off and the play ended up as a turnover.


Which also started poorly for BG.  UT was up 6 midway through the period and up 7 with 1:31 left.

And this is where I am so proud of our guys.  This was absolutely a chance to fold up.  Instead, they battled back.  Wes Alcegaire scored on a layup.  Zack Denny got a steal and Alcegaire scored on a layup.  Navigato missed a 3FG (no it happened) and Wiggins cleared the board and Alcegaire hit a jumper in transition to score again to get the lead to 1 with :40 left.

UT took a long possession on their end, and with the shot clock running now, Sanford made a huge play with a hard drive from the right side of the lane that ended with him sinking a hard jumper with :12 left as the shot clock went off.  Just a clutch play.

BG called timeout.  They were down 3 with :09 left.  This was UT's defensive error.  BG had dribbled the ball up court and called timeout after crossing halfcourt.  But UT ran a guy at the ball and it was clear that they intended to foul BG rather than let BG shoot a 3FG.  That's a little unusual...most teams don't do it with that much time left....but anyway.

So Coach Huger after the game said he saw that and decided to call a play that would generate a catch and shoot and not provide the opportunity to foul.  BG ran a play they say they have run in practice but never in a game, but it consisted of a series of screens with a look to Frye first and then Denny.

Kowalcyk said that his guys were supposed to stay on top of screens and guard the 3-point line but that isn't what happened.  Denny broke off a Wiggins screen and was just wide open on a curl.  He took the inbounds pass and drained a 3 to tie the game back up.  UT got back down the floor and Sanford got the ball off the glass and off the rim at the buzzer, but it did not foul.

Double overtime.

This one also did not start out well, as UT had the first 5 points.  BG scored the next 5 and it was tied again.  UT was up 3 with 1:39 left.  BG ran their offense and with 1:18 Denny drilled a 3FG to tie the game.  (Just a point here...for the previous hour the Stroh was just electric, pandemonium in the arena, just a great atmosphere).

BG fouled Knapke and he made 1 of his 2 FTs.  Denny rebounded, BG came down, ran offense and then Denny drilled another 3FG, this time a contested one, and the Falcons were up 2 with :28 left.  UT had no timeouts, ran offense and got Sanford a 3FG, which he missed.  UT got the board but in the resulting melee Zack Denny got his hand on the ball and caused a deflection which ended up in the UT backcourt for an over and back call.

Stroh Center is just exploding by now.  BG inbounds to its best FT shooter---yeah, Zack Denny--who was fouled.  He made both FTs to put BG up 4 with :09 to play and BG had the victory in what was just an epic game.

Here's one for you.  The game was 50 minutes long.  BG led for 2:30 in total.

Our guys sprinted directly down and joined the student section to celebrate.  The arena was crazy.  I was crazy.  People ask you why you love sports....that game is why I love sports.  So incredible.  So proud of our guys, who had multiple chances to fold and continued to battle and make huge plays.  This is one they'll remember their entire lives and so will we.

More to come.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Rockets Chapitre deux

So, we're back.  Toledo is in the Stroh for a return match.  This is not a protected rivalry, so BG and UT only play twice on rotation, same as with any other east-west battle.  BG has lost six in a row to the Rockets and would love to be able to get a victory to snap a streak that, including football and both basketballs extends back way too far.

When the two teams played at Savage, there was nothing that gave Falcon fans any reason for optimism.  UT held a 20+ lead in the second half and BG never got it closer than 9 in the 2nd half.  It was never really a game and a 12-point final.

Since that game, UT is 1-3.  They were blown out @Kent, won @OU, lost at home to NIU and @Ball State.  The last two games were lost by 2 and 1 point respectively.  Overall, they are 11-11 and 4-5.

So, here is the report from the first game.  What's interesting here is that this could be the Miami-BG game, except that UT shot well and took good care of the ball.  BG was good on offensive rebounds, just as they did against the RedHawks...the other difference is the FTs.  UT was +10 in FTs and made only 18-31, or it would have been worse.  Hidden in the Miami game was a poor defensive performance by BG, and if they don't defend the shot better Saturday, it is unlikely they get a better result.

It is pretty easy to see how the game stacks up.  UT has the 2nd best offense in the MAC and BG is 8th in defense.  UT is 9th in defense, but BG is not able to take advantage...the Falcons are last in the MAC in offensive efficiency.

The key thing to the UT offense is shooting.  They are 3rd in the MAC in shooting and BG is 10th in defending the shot and UT's shooting is about where BG's defense.  UT also takes good care of the ball and they are slightly above average getting to the line.  Their biggest weak area is offensive rebounding.  They are 5th in the MAC in attempting 3FGs and and 4th in making them.  They are 3rd in making 2 FGs and that was the real issue in the Miami game.

BG is last in the making in FG shooting.  UT doesn't defend well, so if this is the night the Falcons get some shots to fall, they might have a shot at winning.  The rest of it is evenly matched, except FTs, where UT leads the MAC in keeping opponents off the line.  BG is 12th in 3FG%, 9th in 2FG% and 9th in FT%.

In the first matchup, UT had five players in double figures. Navigato made 6 of 8 3FGs on his way to 22 and Williams had 20 on 7 of 17 shooting. Sanford had 13, Knapke had 12 and Taylor had 10 and 12 rebounds.

For the year, Williams is averaging 20 PPG, Taylor 15 and 12.5 RPG and Sanford 14.

Look, BG is due for some unexpected this series and in the season.  BG has not won 2 in a row in MAC play and could use a win over UT.  Maybe we can get a nice crowd and put a good game together with our new lineup and beat a UT team that isn't great.  That would certainly make a very good Saturday in February.

Last is an update on our two injured players.

Recruiting Roundup

The real goal....
So national signing day was yesterday.  You can see all the coverage for yourself.  Beyond that, I would add a few thoughts...

First, I'm perfectly happy with the job our coaches did.  To paraphrase the song, we might have "99 problems, but recruiting ain't one."  They might be new and untested, but the coaches are clearly good recruiters, especially off that season.  They brought in an excellent class.

Now, as far rankings go...I'm a little bit of skeptic.  What I like is that most of our guys were sought after by other schools.  Whether they are 2-star or 3-star...I'm glad if they are three-star, but these are 18-year old men.  Some 18-year olds are late bloomers, some are topped out...they can be coached up and they can mature.  They can be put into systems they can thrive in and they can be put into systems they will languish in.

Yesterday was a good start.  In fact, probably better than that.  But winning signing day is one thing.  Winning the big trophy---that's what it's about.  You have to recruit well to do that--as Coach Jinks noted with the strong Clawson recruiting years setting the stage for a big run--but you also can coach a guy up.

For today it is good.  We'll know in '19 if we are starting to get some results.

Maybe sooner.  Coach said he'd like to redshirt everybody but given our depth issues that might not be possible.  But, know that his ultimate vision is to redshirt a whole recruiting class.

Other general notes:

The Blade indicated there were 11 preferred walk-ons, too.  Those are not public until they enroll this summer.

BG went heavy on lineman.  Out of 24 players there were 5 O-lineman and 5 d-lineman.  Beyond that, 2 of the o-lineman were JUCO guys who could start right off the bat.

There also were 5 WRs, which is a big issue given today's offense.  Even if BG does go to a more running style, you might well have four receivers split out with one back.

There were 13 players on offense and 11 on defense.

The most interesting was Travis Koontz who was committed to BG, de-committed, committed to Toledo and then re-committed to BG.  There was talk of him having P5 offers and he could be a difference maker as a matchup problem out of the TE slot.

No kicker...though maybe with the walk-ons.

BG's biggest de-commit was Noah Harvey, who ended up at MSU.  Shows we were on the right track.  Best of wishes to him.  MSU is getting slagged for stealing a BG commit--which is as much a slam on us as them--so I hope he destroys some people.

Anyway, the recruiting appears to be in good hands.  It shows a re-commitment to succeeding on both sides of the ball and being strong up front, which has been one of the consistent things during our recent success.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Falcon MBB Cruises to Win

As my preview noted, BG was playing the only team in the MAC that has a worse rating than they have and it was at home and BG got what they needed, which was a comfortable W, 83-72.  Having said that, I felt like BG played among their better games of the year.  Certainly, we're not going to look down our nose at the win, which was needed.

Miami led only once, 10-8, about 6 minutes into the game.  A couple minutes later BG was on a +9 run to go up 7.  Over the last 5 minutes of the first half BG outscored Miami 9-2 and let by 15 going into the locker room.  From there on in it was no contest.  The lead was in double digits for nearly the entire 2nd half.  Miami did get it to 9 with about a minute left but in the end the Falcons cruised to the victory.

BG had 1.16 points per possession, their best since the Akron game.  They allowed Miami 1.01 per possession, their best in a MAC game that wasn't played against a team whose name rhymed with Schmall Schmate.  Here's what's weird.  Miami actually shot very well against BG.  They had an effective FG% of 65%, which is really good.  They made 72% of their 2FGs, the most in a couple years by a BG opponent.  They also made 38% of their 3s.

So wha happen?  Well, they had a horrible game for turnovers.  They literally turned the ball over 1 out of every 3 times down the court.  That's the most since BG played WMU in 2012  (on this day, in fact).  Their all-star PG Michael Weathers had 0 assists and 10 turnovers, which is just an incredible line.  He sat most of the second half.

How did BG make it up?  First, BG made 44% from 3FG, their best since the Norfolk State game.  BG took better, if not great, care of the ball.  And then BG had a very good day on the offensive boards and at the FT line.  BG was 23 of 31 from the line while Miami was 12 of 16.  That's 74% for BG, which among their better games this year.

Individually, it was interesting.  BG started the same lineup they used when the four guys were suspended.  The big surprise is Malik Hluchoweckyj.  He was getting zero minutes before, and he has now started twice and played very well.  Coach says he works hard on the defensive end of the floor and he had 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting in 19 minutes.   In this two games, he has made a real difference and adds depth to the overall unit.

The games biggest star was Wes Alcegaire, who scored a career-high 25 on 9 of 15 shooting, including 6 3FGs.  Zack Denny had 10 points but continued to struggle with his shot, shooting 1 of 7.  BG also got contributions from Rasheed Worrell, who had 8 rebounds, and Rod Caldwell, who had 3 assists against 0 turnovers.  Dylan Frye plays with a lot of energy but has been struggling as a starter as well.

Even so, I like our young guys.  They are freshmen.  It happens.  Ask Michael Weathers.

So, in come the Rockets Saturday.  This is a tough one.  BG hasn't won 2 in a row in the MAC since their tournament run this year.  And, kenpom literally projects them to lose out.  There's no better time to turn all of that--including the Rocket streak--around then this Saturday.