Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MBB OU Loss Makes 4-game Losing Streak

So, the Falcons are having the worst part of their season at the worst time.  After playing Buffalo above expectations a couple weeks ago, the next three winnable games have all slipped through their fingers.  The first two were agonizingly close.  The last one was not and was very disappointing.

OU went up 10 about halfway through the first half and the lead was never inside 10 again for the last 30 minutes of the game.  BG pushed it to 10 a couple times but never made any serious run or comeback.  When BG did get it that close, OU just pushed a run back and kept the game out of reach.  OU is tough to beat at home but that's a game you'd like to at least compete in, as they are having a difficult year.

Coach pinned the loss on the defense, which is only part of the problem.  By the numbers, BG actually defended reasonably well, holding OU to 1 point per possession.  The defense on 2 FGs was pretty good (44%), but the defense on 3s was poor at 44%.  BG didn't force any turnovers, but was good on the defensive boards and kept OU off the line.

The idea is that BG is not good in a half-court set and needs transition baskets to compete.  However that comes out of the mix, BG had a dreadful offensive game.  In fact, at .79 points per possession, it was BG's worst game in the MAC season and second only to ODU for the whole season.  BG shot 51% on 2FGs, but an awful 15% on 3s and they tried 20.  BG also turned the ball over too much, didn't do squat on the offensive boards and didn't get to the line very much.

Wiggins led the team with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting and added 15 rebounds.  Justin Turner had a rough 14, shooting 6 of 17 and 1 of 7 to go with 15 rebounds.  You can look at the box score, no other player had more than 6 for BG.

So here is the way it sets up.  BG can still get a home berth--though the way they are playing now, it hardly matters where the game is, a point Coach made after the game.

BG can play at home with a win against Buffalo or a loss by CMU.  They win the tiebreaker over OU due to that win over WMU.  In the BG loses scenarios, the question appears to be where BG plays Central...the opponent seems like it will be Central.  If BG ties with Miami (requiring a BG win), the Falcons would finish 7th due to the wins over EMU.  At that point, you would expect to play OU.

As for Friday's prognosis, it's not great, Bob.  Look, Buffalo has nothing to play for.  They have a bye, they won the regular season title and they aren't getting an at-large bid if they lose the tourney.  Having said that, if BG doesn't play better than they did last night, they aren't going to be even the most uninspired team.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

Two games left before the MAC tournament.  BG is still decently positioned to play at home next week, and a win in Athens would close the deal.

BG beat OU earlier this year at the Stroh.  BG won by 16, their biggest win in MAC play.  OU was struggling badly to score at the point in the season.  At that point, OU was 2-7 in MAC play and it was looking like a real struggle for them.  Things have stabilized a little.  They are 3-4 since leaving the Stroh.  They have won 3 in a row at home.

What you have here is the two worst offensive teams in the MAC.  OU is 12th, BG is 11th.  BG is 5th in defense while OU is 7th, which explains BG's 2-game lead over OU.

What's interesting is that OU gets to being the worst offensive team in the MAC in a completely weird--and by that I mean OU--way.  They are actually the 5th best shooting team in the MAC, and you just never see a team be 5th in shooting and last in offense.  They don't take good care of the ball and they are very poor on the offensive boards.  They do a decent job of getting to the line but are 10th in FT%.

They are effective 3FG shooters.  They are shooting 39%...but are 8th in the frequency of shooting the 3.  On 2s, they are 11th.  You can see that things are pretty even.  If BG can defend the shot well...OU was 2-17 from 3FG in the first game...they have a good shot at winning this game.

Flipping it around, BG's struggle is to get some baskets here and there and then get to the line.  That's the way it has worked most of the way.  OU defends the 2 and the 3 about equally well and BG's goal will be get to the basket, I think, and make those close up shots better than they did against Kent.   One last thing, OU plays the 2nd fastest pace in the MAC and BG has the 5th which means that missed shots will have a decent shot of turning into baskets.

Teyvion Kirk is OU's leading scorer at 16.7 PPG.  He's shooting 45% and adds 5.7 RPG.  Mike Lester is scoring 12.9 PPG on 46% shooting and 43% from 3FG.  Jordan Dartis is also scoring 12.5 PPG on 45% and 43% shooting.  Doug Taylor leads the team with 6.1 RPG per game.

So, this is what it comes down.  BG is just a slight hair from being a winning team, but they are not.  OU is tough at home but if BG can put together a stronger effort, even a little, this is one they can win.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Falcon MBB Drops Another Heartbreaker

Ouch.  That one is going to leave a mark.

Full disclosure, due to a life-changing personal event, I didn't see one possession of this game. 

Based on Twitter, I do understand there was some controversy.

Looking at the stats and PBP, this is clearly a game BG should have won.

Much like the Akron game, BG kept the opponent within reach the whole way and even led at halftime.  BG led for almost all of the first 14 minutes before Kent took the lead.  The lead bounced back and forth and then with 1:24 left BG was up by 1 point.

Kent had the ball and BG got a stop on a De La Rosa offensive foul.  In a key possession with less than a minute to play, BG failed to extend the lead and KSU came down and scored to go back up 1 with :42 to play.  Falcons called time and Turner missed a 3, but Koch and Wiggins made 3 Orebs before Wiggins finally got the put back to put BG back up 1 with :20 left.

Jalen Avery came down and was fouled by Frye and made both FTs.  Kent up 1, :17 left.  BG calls time, Turner misses again and then Wiggins was fouled on the stick back.  He made both clutch FTs with :07 left and BG was up 1.

Kent came rushing down the court and the controversial play happened.  I haven't seen it but Frye was called for fouling Avery who made both FTs inside of :04 and then Lillard just missed a buzzer-beater and Kent had a win.


I'm not much one for blaming the refs.  May have been an awful call. People seem very upset. BG also shot 21% in the second half, 1-12 from 3, despite a mind-boggling 17 offensive rebounds.  Games feel like they come down to one possession, but many possessions make a game up.

A win would have clinched home court.  More on that later.  Sad thing is, BG got the defense they needed.  BG has only lost twice when allowing .99 points per possession or below.  (That's what it was, .99).  Sadly, BG scored only .97 points per possession.  BG shot horribly--it was their worst shooting game of the MAC season and second worst of the entire season, eclipsed only by ODU.

BG shot 20% from 3--which is awful--but also 39% on its 2FGs, which just cannot be. 

BG mitigated that by doing a little better on the turnovers.  BG had a great game on the offensive boards, but alas so did Kent.  And, Kent got to the line 21 times to BG's 14.  They shot poorly (made 12) or this would be a different game.   BG made 11 of their 14.

Justin Turner led BG with 17 points on 8 of 18 and 1 of 4 shooting.  Frye had 14 on 4 of 9 shooting.  Wiggins had 14 on 5 of 9 shooting and added 13 rebounds and subtracted 4 turnovers.

Those points for Turner break Anthony Stacey's FR BGSU scoring record.

So here is where we stand.  BG could have clinched home court by winning either of the last two games.  Instead, a road game is still in play.  All the teams chasing BG lost, so BG maintains a two-game lead with 2 to play.  A win Tuesday and they clinch.  Even if BG loses out, any of the four teams chasing them would have to win out to pass BG.  You figure Akron loses @UB, NIU has UT and BSU, CMU has BSU and WMU...don't see any of them winning out.  The one to watch for is OU, since they would (in this model) have beaten BG and then would tie.  I THINK BG would take the tie-breaker over OU....they would have split the season series, neither team would have bean UB, UT or BSU and then BG has wins over WMU and WMU, which OU does not.  But, there's a lot that could happen to that.

Anyway, BG is competitive right now, just not good enough to win.  If they can keep that up, there is no reason they can't win at OU.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Kent, Part II

So in a fight to get a home berth in the tournament (and I suppose in theory for a bye), BG heads to eastern Ohio to take on the Kent State Golden Flashes,  If you recall, the Kent game was BG's big comeback when, where they were down 19 in the first half and rallied to win 70-62 at the Stroh.  It was certainly among the most exciting men's games at the Stroh this year or probably any year.

The loss sent off a bad streak for the Flashes.  Including that game, they have lost 5 of their last 6.  It was a rough patch on the schedule, with EMU, Ball State and Buffalo.  They also lost by 12 @OU in their last game.  The only win was over Akron at the MACC Center.  They are 7-8 in MAC play, but have only lost 1 at home in the MAC season.

And, remember, Akron was playing poorly coming into the BG game.

Here was the scoop when the teams played the first time  It wasn't a great offensive game, BG scoring 1.01 PPP and Kent getting .9.  And that was the mark of how BG got back into the game....highly engaged defense that provided the stops needed to catchup.  It was Kent's worst offensive game in MAC play, and they are 7th in the MAC in offensive efficiency.  Average but not bad.  As you can see, they shot poorly, took bad care of the ball, didn't do much on the board and did not get to the line much.  BG, by contrast, shot only a little better but took care of the ball.

This has been the key element for BG this year.  When BG plays defense, they can win in this conference.  When they don't, they can't.  The average scoring in D1 this year is 1.06 points per possession.  BG is 12-2 when holding their opponents under that mark.  They are 2-10 when allowing more than that.  (D1 only).  If BG plays good defense, they can win this one.  If they don't, or they play average defense, it is a lot less likely.

Kent is led by Jaylin Walker, 17.3 PPP and making 38% from 3FG.  Kevin Zabo scores 14.3 on a rough 42% shooting and then there is Adonis De La Rosa, who was a handful for BG in game one and has 12.5 PPG on 55% shooting and 8 RPG.

This one is going to be interesting.  BG comes in as the underdog against a Kent team which is struggling.  BG will need a significantly better effort to pick up the road win here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

BG loses Heartbreaker to Akron

So there have been some seasons when we're discouraged and beaten by this time of year.  Where we were not too disappointed to get beaten at this point in the year.

Not this year.  That done last night had a little sting to it.  That was really disappointing.  With a lot to play for, BG played just a really poor game the whole way, and yet if it had played well for the last 2 minutes could have still been a win, but did not.  Just a very disappointing way for the game to end.  Very disappointing.  You could sense it from everyone--Coach Huger, the players, and the fans.  That should have been our game.  It was right there, even after 38 minutes of crappy play, and still BG was unable to get it done, putting a serious crimp in their search for a home game.  More on that later.

We weren't ready for prime time, even against an Akron team not good enough to put us away.

The Akron hegemony continues.  That's 19 out of 20.  Also, a sweep from this year.  And that was Akron's first road win of the year.  It is just not good.

Unlike other Falcon games, this one didn't feature any big runs.  The game was tied 12 times and there were 27 lead changes.  It was back and forth the whole way, with neither team playing any defense.

And BG lead inside of 2 minutes and had the ball.  Following Ivey splitting a pair, BG was up 1 with 1:46 left.  Fox missed a 3.  Wiggins with the board.  Kick out to Turner, who missed a jumper.  Wiggins rebound.  He goes back up and has a wide open shot from the front of the rim, an absolute zero footer and he didn't get it over the rim.

Down the floor we go.  Wiggins was visibly upset at missing the shot.  Perhaps related, he got a rare blocked shot on the BG end and the Falcons had the ball back without about a minute left and still with the lead.  Turner tried to feed the post and the ball never got anywhere near Wiggins and the Zips had the ball and this time they drew a fall and Utomi made both FTs.  Zips now up 1.

BG comes down and with :27 Turner hits a jumper and now BG is back up 1 with only :27 left!!

Akron ran a little clock and then Ivey got into the paint (what else is new) and hit a shot and BG was down 1 with :11.

The Falcons came down the floor without a timeout (worked before) and Frye missed a 3FG with :07.  Wiggins with the offensive board, Wiggins again misses the put back and it ended 81-79.

Just need one stop or one zero footer and the story is different.  Or better defense all along.  Anyway, it was a crushing loss.

The problem was not on offense.  BG scored 1.11 points per possession, made shots, took advantage of an undersized Akron team on the boards and did a good job getting to the line, making just under 70%.  The problems were all on defense.  BG allowed 1.14 points per possession, allowing a lot of made shots, not forcing turnovers and allowing an incredible number of free throws.  Simply put, BG's defense was very poor.  Daniel Utomi ate the Falcons alive, with 29 points, on 8 of 13 shooting, 9 of 10 at the line, 5 assists and 3 steals.

In terms of the stat sheet, Dylan Frye had his best game since Norfolk State, scoring 24 on 8 of 13 shooting and 4 assists.  Wiggins had a 17/12 double double, shot 5 of 9 and make 7 of 8 FTs.  He had 4 turnovers.  Justin Turner had 15 on 6 of 14 shooting, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  Lillard had 11 on 4 of 8 shooting, and 6 rebounds.

But most of the stats are on offense.  The defense as a team speaks for itself.

So here is where we stand.  Essentially, BG needs to beat all the 5-10 teams to end up on home court.  Problem is, BG has a tough way to go coming home, with two road games and Buffalo at home.  Furthermore, CMU and Akron get the tiebreaker over BG, and BG split with NIU and still plays OU.  Now, CMU plays @UT and BSU, so they could easily not get 2 wins.  Akron has Miami, @UB and KSU, also far from a certain two wins.  OU is @UB, BGSU and @Miami.  Far from a certain two wins.  And NIU plays @EMU and then UT and BSU.  Unlikely two wins.  But remember, only one of those needs to happen to probably put BG on the road.

So, I feel safe saying that one win should do it for BG.  Could have been last night.  Even with no wins, they are more likely than not to play at home, albeit on a 5-game losing streak.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Zip Preview, The Sequel

So here we go. Standings-wise, what occurs on Tuesday will be the most important game at the Stroh since Chris Jans left....say the 81-80 Kent loss on March 3.  (If you remember these types of things, BG lost 81-80.  It was the game where Richaun Holmes, inexplicably, under no pressure, tossed the ball to Jehvon Clark on the other side of the timeline for a crushing over and back).

Anyway, here we are again.  BG in 4th place, with something to play for in late February.  Just as before, you have to win to make it matter.  And here is BG, playing Akron.  Akron.  So, no secret here, Akron has just owned BG over the past....oh....10 years.  Now, last year BG beat them at the Stroh for the first time since 2009.

Meanwhile, Keith Dambrot left the building along with most of the players.  (Duquesne is 15-12 and 6-8 in A-10 play, FYI).  John Groce, a proven MAC quantity, took the program over, but the droids we have seen before.

Akron is 4-10 in MAC and have lost 6 of their last 7 games.  Along the way, they lost @Miami, @OU and @Kent.  In fact, they have yet to win a road game in the MAC. 

I read the story about the Kent game in the ABJ, and Groce thinks they are playing better.  Don't know if that is accurate or not.

They have had a tough road.  They were short-handed before and then lost Emmanuel Olojakpoke to heart surgery just before we played them in January and then in that very game Jaden Sayles (another big) was seriously injured with wrist and concussion issues and has not played since.

Akron won the game at the JAR by 1 point in a frustrating loss.  Late in the game, BG got the missed shot they needed but did not corral the OREB and Akron scored late in the possession to win the game.  Had BG even gone to OT, Akron was playing with 3 DQs and Huger and overtime equal victory so it could have been different.

Here's how the stats looked.  Much like BG's last game, Akron outshot the Falcons but BG evened it out at the FT line.  Akron was called for 31 fouls and BG shot 43 FTs in the game.  In fact, BG shot 67%, if they shoot really well they win for sure.

Akron is the 9th best offensive team in the MAC and 12th in defense.  So, you can see where the game's test will be.  How good will BG be at exploiting the Zip defense.  Also, Akron plays at the 8th fastest pace in the MAC.

So, here's the deal.  Akron is the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC and give up the most FTs.  They are 10th defending the 2FG and 11th defending the 3FG.  They do force turnovers but they are poor on the defensive boards.  BG simply has to execute on the offensive end.  They need to make shots and get to the line.  If they do, this is a game that should be won.

The Zips has not a lot better on offense, but as you can see here, their offensive numbers are very similar to BG's season numbers.  BG has been defending better of late against poor teams and if the Falcons can get stops, it just helps the offense even more.

Their leading scorer is Malcom Duvivier.  He's scorig 16 PPG on 42% shooting and makes 37% of his 3FGs.  Jimond Ivey scores 14.5 PPG on a rough 38% and 33% shooting and leads the team with 4.2 APG and 5.8 RPG.  Daniel Utomi scores 13.8 on 40% and 35% shooting and 4.5 RPG.

So an important game this late in the season.  Something to be valued.  BG needs to continue to reverse the Zip domination and turn this into a win that is badly needed.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

MAC MBB Standings, Tournament Outlook

So, here is how it looks with 4 games left.  All caveats applied, isn't it awesome to look here and see BG sitting where they are.

As always, this is a bit of a cluster.  There are four teams tied for the 4-7 slots.  BG, in perhaps its best tie-breaker result in conference history, actually is 4-0 among those 4 teams.  So, making any kind of predictions or figuring out who to root for is a little tough at this point.

First, as it relates to the home game.  The thing to look at here is CMU and NIU--knowing that CMU holds the head-head tiebreaker with BG and NIU and BG split.  So, if BG can get to 9-9, they would beat Akron and OU and almost for sure beat CMU and NIU...both play Toledo, and NIU plays Ball State twice.  So, BG wins 2 games out of 4 and they should get a home court game.

At 8-10 (1 more BG win coming home) you still have to like the chances.  CMU or NIU could get to 8 wins, but it would be tough.

Now, let's look at the far less likely top of the standings.  To get a bye, BG needs to essentially maintain a tie with any of the teams that they are currently tied with.  EMU has the toughest road because they have UT twice but BG is the only team of the 4 that plays Buffalo coming home, which gives them the advantage.

If any of those teams can with 3 out of 4 coming home, I'd like their chances.  Kent has the best chance of doing that, I would say, followed by WMU or BG.  Now, at 9 wins, anything could happen, and BG had a chance to impact that when they play at the MACC.

Anyway, great to see the boys competing this late in the year.  One thing is for sure.  Any path will rely heavily on a W on Tuesday.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

BG Puts Up Fight, Loses at Buffalo

So, this was anticipated.  The game at Buffalo was going to be one of the three toughest games on our schedule, along with going to ODU and UT.  BG lost by 42 to ODU and 26 to Toledo.  They lost by 13 to Buffalo, after being down 6 with 4 minutes left.

I'm not suggesting moral victories.  Buffalo is better than BG and it isn't close.  Just for reference, that's how good we need to be to win.  But we knew that.  The difference is that BG just collapsed when they played those first two games and in this one they battled Buffalo hard the entire way.

Not saying the outcome of the game was ever in doubt.  UB was in control from the middle of the first half on.  They led by 15 at halftime.  Six minutes into the second half, BG had the lead down to 3.  That didn't happen in Norfolk and Toledo. 

Now, less than 3 minutes after BG had it to 3, UB had gone on a 12-2 run to get it back to 13 with about ten minutes left.  BG got it to 8, 5, and 6 at various times, but each time UB was able to build the lead back up again.  UB went 13-6 in the final 4 minutes to close it out.

So, not the result we wanted.  But I think a sign of progress for our guys.

As noted, UB is the #2 offensive and #2 defensive team n the MAC.  For all that, BG had 1.09 points per possession, which is a representative effort.  The problem is, UB had 1.24 points per possession.  It was a 75 possession game, the fastest game BG has played in MAC play.  As you can see, UB shot the ball great.  That's 48% of their 2FGs and a ridiculous 60% on their 3s.  BG took good care of the ball and did better on the offensive boards and was able to make it a game with an advantage at the FT line.  BG was 25 of 29 while UB was 17 of 22.  BG shot 49% from the 2FG, which isn't awful, but was only 5 of 20 from 3FG, and that was a big issue in the game.

Justin Turner strung together his second strong game.  He scored 23--but it was an 8 of 19 shooting night, with 2 of 6 from 3FG, so not as efficient as in the WMU game.  But you're not going to do that every day.  Wiggins had a 13/15 double-double, shooting 5 of 10.  Derek Koch continues to improve, scoring 12 on 4 of 6 shooting, adding 9 rebounds and 2 assists in 24 minutes.  (He battled some foul trouble in the first half).  Lillard and Frye had 8 on tough shooting nights.

So, that's that.  Standings update tomorrow.  In the meantime, the game against Akron is going to play a big role in whether BG finishes strong and plays at home in March.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Da Bulls

And so, on a Friday night on national television, the Bowling Green Falcons will face what is probably their most difficult opponent of the year since they played ODU and maybe the whole year.  They are the highest ranked team in the MAC and are 11-2, the same record as UT, and you saw what happened when BG played UT at Savage.

It isn't that they can't be beaten.  They have lost to Kent and NIU.  Thing is, both of those games were on the road.  They've lost at home only once this year, and that was to a really good St. Bonaventure team.  They are just really good this year.  Nate Oats will be courted by a lot of other programs, whether he can be convinced to stay or not remains to be seen, but Buffalo has developed into a basketball power and frankly have are positioned to be a Gonzaga if they were able to sustain some coaching continuity.

They are #2 in the MAC in offense and defense.  That's how good teams are made.  They will present a major challenge to the BG defense, as you can see below.  Buffalo also plays at the fastest pace in the MAC, which means they feel the same way about getting a stop that BG does.  (The MAC is the #11 ranked conference by tempo, which is in the top 3rd of all the conferences).

So, how do you get to be that good on offense?  Well, here you go.  First, Buffalo is the best shooting team in the MAC.  They are #1 in 2FG% and #3 at the 3FG.  That's going to help.  They are also #3 in taking care of the ball and in offensive rebounding.  So, that's a pretty good profile  They don't get to the line a lot and they are 8th in FT%.  Even with all that, BG has simply got to find a way to get stops or hope Buffalo has a cold night.  The Falcons will have a hard time out-scoring this offense if it is firing on all cylinders.

On defense, they pretty much defend as BG scores.  Problem is that they are #3 in defense and BG is #10 on offense.  They are 3rd in defending the shot and 3rd in defending the boards.  They don't force a lot of turnovers and they do give up some free throws, so they are not a bullet-proof defense, but they are very good.  BG is the worst shooting team in the MAC, as a reminder.

Individually, here is the scary part.  Three of Buffalo's 4 top scorers are juniors.  Hmmmm.  Anyway, they are led by Nick Perkins, he is scoring 18 PPG in 28 minutes.  He's shooting 52% and adding 7.2 RPG.  He should be a POY candidate, but I am not sure he is in the conversation.  He's 6'8" and from Milan HS, of all places. 

Their second-leading scorer is Jeremy Harris, who came to UB as the #2 JUCO player in the country.  He's 6'7" and scoring 17.6 PPG, shooting 56% and 46% to go with 6 RPG.

CJ Massinburg is scoring 15 PPG, shooting 49% and 35% and 6.9 RPG, which is impressive from a guy who is 6'3".

These three guys just play really long and present matchup problems for everyone and that would include our guys.

Wes Clark is scoring 12.8 PPG on 47% and 38% shooting to go with 5.3 APG over 1.9 Turnovers.  That's the #2 A/T ratio in the conference.

There's depth, too.  This is a very solid basketball team.  Whether BG can pull what would be the biggest upset in the MAC this year will be seen on Friday.

Breaking: Matt Brock heading to Washington State

According to, BG's LB and Special Teams coach Matt Brock is heading to Washington State to work for Mike Leach, obviously a connection borne out of Lubbock, TX.  That's a clean sweep of the defensive staff...the entire crew of assistants will be new next year, from the coordinator on down.

I did feel that Brock was doing a good job with the special teams, so he will also need to be replaced at that position, which is really important.

Brock came with Jinks and is the first of the Texas assistants to leave voluntarily.

So, a lot of fans wanted a clean sweep of the defensive staff, and that's what ended up happening, one way or the other.  Will be an interesting year.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Same Old Story Leads to MBB Win for Falcons

So, as the teams ran into the locker room at halftime, the Falcons found themselves in an all-too-familiar position--losing big, in this case to the tune of 45-34.  And yet, despite that, the Falcons were able to pick up a third-straight home win, 83-81 in yet another thriller.

This one was a little different, in that BG came out hot and cut the lead down but WMU kept pushing it back up again until they had it back to 10 with 6:22 left.  In other words, for all the battling, BG had netted only 1 point by 6 minutes left.

BG then went on a 15-4 run to finally take the lead--though that did not happen until there was 1:13 left on the clock.  So you have a five-minute period where BG was getting a lot of stops, which has been the hallmark of these comebacks.

The last couple minutes were relatively crazy.  This kind of thing sometimes happens.  There was one official who blew an early call that went against BG.  He called Caldwell for tripping a Bronco when the young man only slipped.  During an ensuing timeout, BG played the replay of the call over and over again, like 8 times.

Well, so the part that sometimes happens is that the same official seemed to spend the rest of the night being right in the middle of every big call and emphatically blowing every one of them.

For example, the two Koch FTs that put BG ahead with 1:13 left were the result of a ridiculous call against Brandon Johnson when he was jockeying in the paint for position, same as had been going on the whole game and never called.

WMU was up 1 heading into BG's last possession and BG ran the ball upcourt off a rebound.  So coaches vary.  Some like the timeout, some like to let it roll.  BG let it roll, but Coach admitted after the game that he was trying to call timeout but no one saw him.  So BG let it roll.

Lillard launched a three that missed, but Wilder was called for hitting him on the shot...something that's tough to see when you look back at the replays.  We'll take it, mind out.  There was also the "screen" set on Frye on Ball State's winning shot.  (This game also featured a charging call on a Wilder drive that was just unbelievable).

Anyway, BG down 1, Lillard shooting 3.  His first shot might have been the worst free throw I ever saw.  It chunked onto the flat part of the back of the rim and just bounced forward enough to fall into the basket.  The next two were easy and BG led by 2 and the Broncos came down and got a good look at a 3 but missed the whole.  (Compounding their issues was that Wilder had fouled out on the Lillard shot).

Coach Hawkins left the floor gesturing and shouting at the officials, and it was one of those nights when its tough to play on the road.

No one played much defense in this one.  BG scored 1.27 points per possession and WMU shot 1.24 points per possession.  That's BG's best offensive game this year against a D1 opponent.  (The game was played at WMU's pace of 65 possessions per game).  As you can see, most of it is pretty close.  The key difference was FTs.  Both teams shot a high percentage, but BG made 22 out of 27 and WMU only made 11 out of 14.  WMU was called for 22 fouls and BG 14.

BG played a very tight rotation.  All 5 starters played more than 30 minutes, which means they played most of the game without a true PG in the game.  Koch played 33 minutes, his most this year and that includes some overtime games.  Caldwell, Cummings, Plowden and Fox all had low minute totals.

The big game was Justin Turner.  He shot AWFUL in the previous game, but he was incredibly efficient in this one.  He scored 29 points on 11-13 and 2-3 shooting, plus 5 of 6 at the line and 3 steals.  That's a hell of a night, especially when you are guarding Thomas Wilder as well.  Wiggins had a 13/12 double-double on 6 of 9 shooting while he was in the paint with Western's two gigantic Centers.  Lillard scored 18 on 5 of 13 and 2 of 5 shooting, plus 6 of 6 at the line, including those three clutch shots at the end.  Derek Koch had 8 points and 8 rebounds and Dylan Frye continued to struggle with his shot, but give him credit, if the shot isn't there he isn't forcing it.

So, if the season ended today, BG would have a bye.  Sadly, it does not end today.  BG is the only team with two games with Buffalo left, the first of which is Friday at Alumni.  Bigger picture, BG has a 2-game lead over the #9 team, which is what they need to finish at least #8.  No one has an easy schedule coming home....EMU has to play UT twice, for example.  I like our odds.  To be sure, we need two more wins, and if we can keep playing well, there are two wins out there. 

BG is also 16-10 with 5 games left plus the tournament.  If BG lost their next 6, they would finish 16-16, so one more win and they should be able to notch a winning record.  (There's a possible CBI or CBIT loss hanging out there, too).  Anyway, let's win two more and notch some landmarks in the rebuilding of the program.

Monday, February 12, 2018

WMU Bronco Preview

So, the Falcons are 6-6 in the MAC and now actually in a position to play for something that can be built on....a winning record and a home game in the MAC.  Even more is within reach, but let's take one thing at a time.

According to Kenpom, BG has played the weakest schedule in the MAC to date, as in our conference schedule has been the easiest.  We have six games left, two of them against the best team in the MAC to date, the Buffalo Bulls.  So what does that mean?  It means if BG needs 9 wins to be sure of a home game, they need to set the table by winning 3 of those other four.  Obviously, you could beat Buffalo, but you have WMU and Akron at the Stroh and then Kent and OU on the road, both of which are not what they normally are, and you'd like to pick up 3 of those to get to 9 wins. It won't be easy.

Tuesday's game against WMU will be an excellent test.  I'm really looking forward to it.  The Bronocs are a good team but the game is at BG and I am really enjoying BG figure out how to win games.

WMU is 7-5 in MAC play, which is just 1 game ahead of BG.  They have won 4 out of their last 5.  3 of those wins were at home, and then they won @EMU and lost @Buffalo.  They are 2-3 in MAC play on the road and have 4 out of their last 6 on the road, so they have challenges as well.

This chart indicates that this should be an interesting game.  WMU is #3 in the MAC in offensive efficiency and BG is #4 in defense.  So that would appear to be a pretty good matchup.  Meanwhile, BG is 10th in offense and WMU is 8th in defense, so that's a battle of a different stripe.  I think the big test is whether BG can play more solid defense for a longer period of time.

WMU gets to that #3 offense in the strangest way ever.  They are #11 in the MAC in effective FG%.  It is just incredibly unusual for a team to get to #3 in offense without shooting well and especially when shooting that poorly.  They are 8th in 3FG% and 10th in 2FG%, and are 11th in the MAC in terms of % of 3FG that are taken.  In other words, they are a 2FG-focused team that is 10th at making them.

Now, they are #1 in the MAC in not turning the ball over (#25 in the nation) and they are #2 in offensive rebounding.  Both of those generate additional possessions, which you need if you shoot poorly.  (Note, the offensive rebounding number means they get 3 out of 10 out of the available rebounds).  They are 2nd at getting to the line and #5 at making FTs.  So, those things make up for the shooting struggles.

Looking at the other side of the coin, you see that while BG is last in the MAC in shooting, WMU is #9 in defending the shot.  Here, I think the key is that if BG can get stops (which will be largely determined by controlling the boards against a very physical WMU team) and then get some transition baskets to help that percentage out.  Beyond that, it all looks pretty even.  It would be great to see BG get to the line as they did against EMU, which has been lacking from their game.  BG is 7th in making FTs, so it would be great to see them pick it up a little.

Individually, WMU is led by Thomas Wilder, a returning All-MAC player.  He's third in the MAC in scoring at 19.7 PPG, shooting 44% and 35% and making 82% of his FTs (#2 in MAC).  Add 5 RPG and 4 assists to that, and you have an All-MAC player again.

Their number two scorer is Junior Josh Davis, who was the top player in the Detroit PSL his senior year.  He's a junior now and is coming into his own.  He's 6'5" and appears to be an Anthony Stacey like player.  He's scoring 12.3 PPG on 52% shooting, 44% from 3FG and 6.3 RPG.  

Next is Reggie Jones, who was All-MAC FR last year.  He's 6'6" and is scoring 10.6 PPG but not efficiently, with 40% and 25% shooting.

As always, this is a big, physical team, much like EMU is.  This is a nice test for the Falcons.  They actually competed with Miami playing with a relatively small lineup, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out, but either way, this is one you'd love to see the Falcons pick up on home floor.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Falcon MBB Does it Again, Huge Comeback at Home

It was an amazing repeat of the Kent game.

BG was playing awful.  Simply awful.  With 2 minutes left in the first half, EMU led by 19.  At least with Kent, BG made a late first half run, but in this case BG was down 17 at the half and 18 early in the second half.

Youch.  It was pretty bad.  According to kenpom, EMU had a 95% chance of winning at that point.  BG then finally awakened, just as they did with Kent, playing lock down defense, getting stops and then finally making some shots against the EMU zone defense, which is an absolute bitch to score against.  If you're going to commit to one thing, do it like they do it....relentlessly.

BG had it to 9 with 16 minutes left and 7 with 14 minutes left.  Things stabilized for a while.  The lead did not get inside 7 until there were 6 minutes left.  BG got the lead to 3 with 5 minutes left and tied the game for the first time with 4:36 left.  Even then, EMU maintained the lead, and had a 3-point lead with 1:12 left.

EMU got a stop on the next possession, which you think would be it, but BG fouled and EMU missed the front end of the 1-1.  BG rebounded and came down.  Even under pressure, you just don't get a quick, quality shot against these guys.  BG wasn't in the bonus, so EMU had a foul to give and did with :10 left.  BG called time out and set up the key play.

Based on coach after the game, the first option was Turner and the second was Frye.  Fox was inbounding and correctly knew that whoever got the ball would be collapsed on.  Also, EMU was in a perfect position to foul to prevent the 3, so it had to be fast.  Turner was covered, Fox got the ball to Frye who fed it back to the often open inbounder, and Fox was 3 feet behind the arc and drilled the game tying 3.

The overtime was something I don't think I have ever seen before.  BG did not attempt a FG for the entire 5 minutes.  ATTEMPT.  I cannot believe it.  You just don't see it.  What BG did do was make FTs and get stops.  BG shot 13 FTs in the extra time and made 10 of them.  Meanwhile, EMU shot 1 of 12 in extra time, and that allowed BG to win the game 70-63, their second OT win over EMU this year.

The stops and the FTs are related.  When BG gets stops they get into transition and put pressure on an EMU team that prefers half court sets in a big way.

BG never led in regulation.  The game was only tied in regulation twice.  BG first led 41 minutes into the game.  Interestingly, when BG had the ball down 3 with :06 left, EMU had a 95.3% chance of winning, based on similar situations.  It is the 153rd biggest comeback in D1 ball this year, all based on kenpom.

BG held EMU to .9 points per possession.  That's the 4th game in a row where the Falcons have held their opponent under .9 points per possession and BG is 3-1 in that period.

Looking at this game, you can see where the advantages came.  First, shooting was even for the game, but that's not the whole story.  In the first half, EMU shot 56% and BG shot 25%.  In the second half, BG shot 48% and EMU shot 40%.  In the OT, EMU shot 8%.  After the first half, they were 1-12 from 3FG.

EMU forces a lot of turnovers and that bit BG a little bit, especially as the Falcons played without Rodrick Caldwell.  However, BG took big advantage of the offensive boards, which are tough to cover in a zone.  And, most of all, BG had a huge advantage at the FT line.  BG was 22-29 (76%) and EMU was only 9-11.  So BG was +13, 10 of them coming in the OT.

Demajeo Wiggins had a double-double, 17 and 15.  That's 17 on 6 of 8 shooting.  He did have 4 turnovers.  Whenever BG got the ball into the paint, they were SWARMED by defenders.  Dylan Frye had 12 on 4 of 5 shooting from 3FG, his best shooting in a while.  Matt Fox had 12 off the bench, also on 4 of 5 3FG shooting.  Derek Koch had 10 and 7 rebounds on 3 of 6 shooting.  And Justin Turner had a very interesting 10 on 1 of 14 shooting, but 8 of 10 at the line.  He was just snakebit, a bunch of those 13 misses were right up close.

BG has shown they can play very effectively for parts of games, even most of games.  They've had big comebacks and blown some big leads.  The next step is putting it together for longer stretches--these big comebacks are not sustainable.  Having said that, if you had told me we'd be 6-6 two-thirds of the way into the MAC season, I'd have taken it all day.

So, next up are WMU at the Stroh on Tuesday and then Buffalo on FRIDAY on the road.  Here's how things look right now.  BG is 2 games clear of where they need to be to play at home and one game short of being in the top 4.  They also now own the tie breaker over EMU.  However, BG has two games with UB left and no one else does.  Puts extra pressure on the WMU and Akron games, as well as @OU.

One last thing.  BG is 15-10 with 6 regular season games left.  That means at the most they can lose is 7 games.  With two wins, they clinch a winning season.  That might sound like nothing, but in the 16 years since WVU, it would be only the 4th winning season for the Falcons.

Friday, February 09, 2018

EMU Preview

So, BG has another game against a team in the middle of the standings Saturday when they play Eastern Michigan for the second time this year.  EMU comes in at 14-10 and 5-6 in the MAC.  BG beat them 75-71 in OT in Ypsi earlier this year.  More on that in a minute.

They are the best defensive team in the MAC.  They lead the MAC in points per possession (Not) allowed, EFG% defense, causing turnovers, 3-point defense, blocked shot % and steal %.  They are #2 in 2FG%.  This is just a very tough team to score against.  Given that BG is 9th in offense and last in EFG% in the MAC and 6th in 3FG%, you can see where this could be a tough matchup for the Falcons.

On the other hand, EMU also gets the ball half of the time.  EMU is 10th in offense in the MAC and BG is 5th in defense, so there's a good shot that both teams will struggle to score.

Tempo will be an issue.  They play the slowest tempo in the MAC while BG plays 3rd fastest.

The first game was not unlike the Kent win.  Late in the first half, BG was down 24-13.  BG played very small (and without an injured Dylan Frye) and that's what enabled them to turn it around.  BG's shooting was above what EMU normally allows.  Matt Fox hit for 18.  Basically, BG eventually got comfortable shooting over the zone and got some inside-out going.  They will need to do that again to make it work.

A couple points.  First, if BG can get stops against EMU, they can get into transition and not have to worry about the Eagle zone.  Second, like most zone teams, EMU has trouble on the defensive boards (last in the MAC), and that's something BG didn't really exploit in the first game.  (Of course, they were playing small).  Last thing, EMU is the worst FT shooting team in the MAC and one of the 30 worst in the country.  They shot it well in the first game, but a return to form would help BG out.

In MAC play, Elijah Minnie is their leading scorer at 14.5 PPP.  He shoots 44% and adds. 4.8 RPG.  He's 6'9" and a transfer from Robert Morris.  Paul Jackson is second, scoring 13.6 on a woeful 37% shooting.  He transferred from EKU.  James Thompson IV, a past All-MAC player, is scoring 13.6 PPG on 69% shooting and adding 12.3 RPG, which more or less adds up to another all-MAC year.  He's first in rebounding, first in FG% and third in blocked shots.  He leads in both offensive and defensive rebounds. And he's only a junior.

That's the skinny.  EMU is capable of blowing people out, as they showed with BSU a couple games ago.  They also blew BG out last year.  This is a game the Falcons could really use.  I have no idea on the status of Wiggins, so that will be something to watch as well.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Signing Day Part II

So, National Signing Day is over....probably.  In his presser today Coach said that they have until midnight, so who knows what might happen in the meantime.  He made some reference to an HR issue that had to be cleared up.  Anyway, BG had four new players sign today.

The star of the day is a guy Coach didn't even know had signed when he was doing his presser, and that is Ra'veion Hargrove who held his announcement at his school, which had a snow day at the same time.  He has the potential to be a big get.  He played DIII ball in HS, which isn't the highest level, but he had some ridiculous numbers.  As a sophomore, he ran for over 3,000 yards.  He had 2,264 as a senior.  He's a highly productive player and one of the best in Ohio.  See below.

Named Gatorade's Ohio High School Player of the Year ... Runner-up for Mr. Football ... Finished his career with 7,364 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns ... Ran for 2,264 yards and 30 touchdowns to lead Trotwood-Madison High School to the Division III state championship and a 15-0 record ... Had 1,562 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior ... Ran for 3,039 yards as a sophomore, the ninth-most in a single season in OHSAA history ... Has also been a state qualifying sprinter in track and field.
I know that a lot of people will say that we already have Andrew Clair, which we do.  I will say that most teams are comfortable now with two feature backs...UT has been doing it for years.  There are also injuries that can happen, so depth is good.  Even if both players are healthy, there's plenty of room in our offense for a couple backs.  In fact, it will help to keep them both healthy.

Hargrove had initially committed to BG.  Then, he de-committed.  He did not sign anywhere in December and is now 100% committed to BG...and signed.  He had offers from most of the MAC, including UT.

Coach also talked about TE Presley Motes.  This one is a little harder to see.  He was a lifetime QB and transferred to East Arizona CC and played three games at TE.  Now, coach is talking him up as a guy who can help us right away at TE and possibly keep our two HS TEs red-shirted.  Motes was on a Mormon mission, so he is 23 years old and is 6'4" and 235 pounds.  Coach says he will provide leadership the minute he walks in the door at BG.  Candidly, when I saw this guy had committed I thought he was walking on, but that was not correct.  Just seems like he's hardly played the position at all.

BG also picked up Karl Brooks, a D-end from Lansing.  He's 6'4" and 235 pounds (the same size as Motes, interestingly) and was second-team All-State.  Had 100 tackles, 12 sacks and 5 forced fumbles, all of which are pretty good.  He de-committed from Grand Valley to come to BG.  Coach said that Coach Pelini helped to recruit Brooks.

The other player from today was Cameron Stage.  Stage is from FL and plays OL.  He is 6'4" and 295 pounds.  Coach said he had a lot of offers after his junior year.  I believe he was injured for his senior year, which tends to make most teams disappear.  If he comes back healthy, BG gets a hidden gem.

According to 247, BG ended up with the #3 class in the, albeit considerably behind UT, which finished first with 23 3-star players, while BG had #13.  WMU was second with 19 3-star players.  Last year, BG finished second and WMU was third as they recovered from the departure of the boat.

Coach is a very solid recruiter.  He was asked if the record makes it tough to recruit, he said at first it was tough but then said that he can offer playing time, which is attractive.  (On the other hand, UT doesn't offer that and recruited even better). 

He also said that we are still one year from where we want to be, seeming to imply that after one more class we actually will be able to start to redshirt larger portions of our class.  Of course, if all this recruiting doesn't turn into wins, it will be somebody else's problem.

He was asked about Coach Pelini and said that it was great to have someone around to bounce ideas off who had sat in his chair.  Which was the point a lot of people made about his original assistants. He also had good things to say about Jimmy Williams, the new d-line coach.  He said that Pelini demands attention in the defensive room, which is a start.  You'd just think you'd have gotten someone who commanded attention in the first place.

But, it is what it is.  Pelini was an excellent hire and if the coaching improves while the talent continues to develop then this thing really does have a shot at turning around.

Falcon MBB loses buzzer beater at Ball State

Even though BG lost last night in Muncie, I'm going to chart that game on the plus side of this team's progress towards competing for a top spot in the MAC.

Playing without Demajeo Wiggins against an up-and-down Ball State team that was 10-1 at home and good enough to beat UT in Savage, the Falcons took the game down to the final possession before Tayler Persons drilled a 3-FG with less than a second left to give Ball State the 59-56 win.  In fact, on the second-to-last possession, Dylan Frye had the ball halfway down on a three before it spun out, so that's how close it was.

All told, I count it as a success.  Earlier this year, BG struggled with battling adversity.  For the second straight week, they battled through this one and nearly pulled out what would have been a really big win.  Even so, I continue to be encouraged.  What you want is to see the young team get better.  Hopefully, that's what's going on, even if there might be a relapse along the way.

BG had a six-point halftime lead and led for the first 16 minutes of the 2nd half.  BG led 53-51 at that point, and BSU went on a modest 8-3 run to get the win.  BG made only one basket in the last 4 minutes and none in the last two minutes.

As you can see from the score, it was not much of an offensive basketball game.  BG has .81 points per possession, which is their second-worst next to ODU.  However, BG held Ball state to .85 points per possession, which is the best since the NIU win a month or so ago.  The game was played at 69 possessions, which is slower than BG likes.  With all the misses and good BG rebounding, you didn't see the Falcons take advantage of the opportunity to get into transition, which is what they want to do.  Sometimes, teams will not crash the boards hard and defend against the break instead, (a favorite Charlie Coles strategy) so maybe that's what he was up to.

BG also didn't get fouled.  They had a season-low 5 FT attempts, something which has been a trend.

That, and Ball State's slightly better shooting was the difference.  Both teams struggled to take care of the ball.

Antwon Lillard, who continues to play well, led BG with a double-double, 15 and 10.  That came on 6 of 12 and 2 of 5 shooting.  Dylan Frye, who has been slumping badly, had 14 points on 5 of 14 and 2 of 7 shooting, but good to see him fighting to get back into the groove.  Justin Turner had 9 on a rough 4 of 14 shooting.  Derek Koch had 10 rebounds in 27 minutes before fouling out with 5 or so to play.

On a usage note, BG's two true PGs, Cummings and Caldwell, played a collective 24 minutes.

Eastern is next on Saturday at the Stroh.  Let's hope for a nice crowd and a big W for the boys to keep the mo going.

National Signing Day....AGAIN

So, its national signing day today.  Obviously, not a tremendous amount expected since most of the players signed in the early period.  As of this hour (9 am), Cameron Stage and Hassan Belton have signed.  You can follow the other news here.  If you want to know what's expected to happen, you can read John Wagner's article in The Blade.

The only known mystery is Ra'veion Hargrove, a highly regarded RB recruit from Trotwood-Madison.  He has scheduled his announcement for 1 pm and then moved it when school was canceled in his district today.  As far as we know, it is between BG and EKU, but you never know.

And, there are occasional last-minute surprises, from someone who is suddenly available.

Coach Jinks will talk at 1:30 in a live presser, which will air live on ESPN3.


Monday, February 05, 2018

Sources say BG has d-back Coach named.

Per, LaMarcus Hicks has been named the DB Coach at BGSU.  He holds the same position at Jackson State, currently.

Here's what is odd.  He is the second BGSU defensive assistant hired this year who played for the Detroit Lions.  As a long-time fan of the Lions, I have to say that somehow this is at odds with history and potential reality.

I kid.

His coaching career includes starting in 2010 as a WR Coach at Rhodes College.  He was DC for two years at Truman High School in Michigan and then coached for one year as the D-backs coach at Concordia. He went to North Texas for two years and then Jackson State for two years.

His official Jackson State bio has this to say about his tenure at North Texas.

North Texas had seven different defensive backs with an interception in 2014, which was a school record for most DB’s in a single season with at least one pick. Five of those seven were cornerbacks coached by Hicks. Two Mean Green cornerbacks had interceptions returned for touchdowns. Cornerback James Jones was named to the C-USA second-team in 2014 as he was the second leading tackler and led the team with nine PBUs.

Last year, they were #29 in FCS in pass efficiency defense--which is not totally on him, obviously.

Welcome to the Falcons, LaMarcus.

Ball State preview

We're into the second half of the MAC season, and that means the games start to add some meaning, if you have the privilege to be playing for something in the standings.  The Falcons are in place for a home berth in the MAC.  It won't be easy, but it is there to be had if they can continue to play well.  They are coming off their best game of the season and are on a modest two-game winning streak.  Next up is Ball State, a team they are in contention with in the middle of the standings and therefore a huge game if you can pick it up on the road.

Ball State probably had the best non-conference season in the MAC.  They were 9-4 entering MAC play, with a win over Notre Dame and a 112 kenpom ranking.  Since then, it has been a rough ride for them.  They indefinitely suspended Jontrell Walker after a domestic abuse charge and then removed Jeremie Tyler, who had been suspended multiple times.  This is on top of Zach Hollywood's off-season suicide).

The first sign of trouble came when they lost by 20 in Muncie to Buffalo.   They were 4-4 in MAC play and they won at Savage (we saw how BG did) and then turned around and lost by 17 in Ypsilanti.  They are 5-5 in MAC play and have to be a little disappointed with that result.  They have only played 4 home games so far and they are 3-1 on their floor, with the only loss being that loss to Buffalo.

They have absolutely struggled to make basics in MAC play, and that extends beyond just the 41 point game in Ypsi.  They are 11th in the MAC in offensive efficiency at .98 points per possession but 4th in defense at 1.03 ppp.  BG has been playing better defense and their best shot is to keep the Cardinals from getting hot.  As Coach mentioned post-game, if BG gets stops the offense gets much better.

Ball State does nothing well on offense, really.  They are 10th in shooting, 11th in turnovers, 8th in offensive rebounding and 11th in getting to the free throw line.  As you can see, these numbers are pretty even with BG's defensively challenged unit over the course of the MAC season.  They are 11th in 3FG%, 8th in 2FG% and 9th in FT%.  Let's hope this is OU and not NIU.

Flipping it around, we see that they rely on getting stops.  These numbers are all pretty evenly matched, with one exception and that is at the FT line.  BSU is #3 in the MAC at keeping their opponents off the line.  As mentioned, this was a big part of BG's offense earlier and it would be a huge help to start getting to the line again.

Their leader is Tayler Persons, who was all-MAC last year after transferring from NKU.  He's scoring 13.9 on 42% and 33% shooting.  He's fifth in the MAC in assists and 10th in A/T ratio.

Trey Moses is scoring 13.8 PPG on 54% shooting and adding 9.6 RPG.  He's a 6'9" Jr who was all-MAC defensive last year.

Tajhal Teague is their other double-figure scorer at 10.4 PPG, shooting 42% and 9% and adding 6.9 RPG.  He is a 6'8" So.


So, this will be an interesting one.  MAC home teams have won 63% of their games, which is #12 in the nation, by conference.  Coach Huger has only won 3 MAC games in a row once, and that would be a great record to meet with a road win against team that is very up and down.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Sentinel: Hopgood Returning to BG

So Jordan Hopgood is returning to BG as a graduate assistant.  I think this will be pleasing to everyone.  He served in the same position at Morgan State.  (Are graduate assistants still enrolled in school?  I always thought they were on an assistantship like a teaching assistant would be.)

Anyway, Jordan was a member of that 2013 Championship team.  He came to BG as a WR and was switched to RB.  Ran the ball a decent amount during the very tough 2010 season and was a very solid role player after that.  His BG bio says he was a third-down blocking back his senior year.

One thing I started to work on and never got figured out is the number of those Clawson guys who are in coaching.  It was over 10 last I looked.

Anyway, welcome home Jordan!

Big BG MBB Comeback Thrills Falcon Nation

That, my friends, was a win.  You know, for all the frustration and time you spend following sports, every once in a while there's an experience that reminds you why you love sports.  And that was it.  It is just ridiculous how good that makes me feel.  Just a great afternoon.

You have a big crowd.  BG has had a bad habit of disappointing big crowds over the last couple years, but this time BG rewarded them for coming and hopefully engaged them to come again.  And when that place starts to get big crowds, there will be noise.  (Dare we say, it will roar?)

This was BG's 4th largest MBB crowd.  THERE WAS TRAFFIC IN THE PARKING LOT LEAVING THE ARENA!  Love it.  Love it.  A great day.

It did not start out that way.  BG was down 11-0 at the first media time out and with 5 minutes left in the first half was down 29-10.  It was not possible for them to be playing worse.  But then, you could see something.  Instead of folding, you could actually see them lock onto the challenge.  They started to play defense with real intensity.  Real pressure.  I mean, you could literally see it.  And it worked.

BG closed the half on a 14-2 run, including a Justin Turner buzzer beater, to cut the lead to 7.  BG had the clear momentum entering the second half. 

From there it was a ballgame.  BG was locked in, as was Kent.  BG had the game tied with about 12 minutes left, but Kent pushed the lead back to 6 and led for the next few minutes.  Even so, you felt like BG was in the game the whole way now.

With 7 minutes left, Kent led 53-47.  BG scored the next 7 points to finally take the lead for the first time.  And from there, things went the way they are supposed to go with good teams.  BG took the lead with 5 minutes left at home and did not trail again.  You take control of the game and you close the door.  That's 23-9 coming home in the last 7 minutes, to a roaring crowd, chanting DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE.  Awesome.

Here's how large the comeback was. keeps track of win probability as a game proceeds.  When BG was down 19, they had an 8.5% chance of winning the game, based on other teams in similar situations.  As of this morning, that is the #192 largest comeback in college basketball this year, counting the thousands of games that have been played.

I feel (or hope) that maybe a light switched for our guys.  Coaches always say you have to learn how to win.  Let's hope this was a positive lesson we can build on.  More on that in a second.

So, BG won the game the way it usually happens, which is by shooting better and taking better care of the ball.  That's the most likely way to win a game.  One note, BG is getting to the line a lot less lately.  I don't know if teams are focusing on not fouling or if the officiating is changing as the game gets back into conference play, but BG is getting to the line less.  Their FT% has also fallen in MAC play.

Anyway, the deal here is that BG held Kent to .9 points per possession.  And make no mistake about it, defense keyed this comeback, as they key all comebacks.  The difference between this and the UT game is we punched back when we got hit.

Justin Turner led BG with 20 points.  With DeLa Rosa in there, BG could not rely on the inside game as much as they would like and Turner stepped up.  We needed him to take shots in volume.  He scored 20 on 8 of 18 and 2 of 4 shooting, plus 3 steals.  Wiggins was still productive, scoring 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting to go with 9 rebounds. (DeLa Rosa went 20 and 6, but had 5 TOs). 

Rod Caldwell had a really nice game, scoring 12 off the bench, but doing it efficiently, 4 of 6 and 2 of 4 and adding 4 assists and 0 turnovers.  He also stroked a key basket late and is very reliable on last-minute FTs.  Antwon Lillard scored 11 on 4 of 7 and 1 of 4 shooting.  Derek Koch had 8 points and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes.

So here is how things look now.  If the season ended today, BG would have a home game in the tourney.  They're only one game out of the #3 slot and the #8-9 slots as well.  BG also still has Buffalo twice.  So, it won't be easy.  Actually, the BSU game Tuesday plays right into this. 

BG is also 14-9 on the year.  It would be great to end up with a winning record for the season, something few and far between in the past 15 years.  Obviously, we're moving closer to making that a reality.

A great day at the Stroh.  More to come.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Falcon Football Graduate Assistant Lands at Howard Payne

Luke Wagner was BG's graduate assistant last year in charge of RBs for the last two years.  Since BG did not have a full-time assistant in charge of RBs, it is possible he was doing a lot of the work with the RBs.  Anyway, he's going to be a WR Coach at Howard Payne, which is an NCAA Divison III school.

Best of luck to Luke.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Flash Preview

As nice as the OU win was, the next game promises to be a more interesting challenge.  Kent State was 6-7 entering MAC play, but are 6-3 in conference play and that includes winning 5 of their last 6.  That includes a win over Buffalo in their last game.  Now, on the other hand, they are only 1-3 on the road and the win was at CMU.  Right now, they are the #3 in the MAC.

Overall, Kent State has gotten where they are by doing everything pretty well...nothing poorly.

To wit, they are #5 in offensive efficiency in the MAC and #7 in defense.  Meanwhile, BG is #10 in offense and #8 in defense.  The key element is going to be on making baskets, where the Falcons continued to struggle even in their last win.  If they're going to keep allowing 1.05 PPP, they will need to score roughly that match to start having a shot at winning.

So when you compare the Kent offense and the BG defense, you see two teams which are pretty much at the same level.  In fact, this is about as evenly matched as you will find.  Kent does shoot well--and that should present a challenge for the BG defense.  They are #3 in the MAC in EFG%.  They are #4 in 3FG and #6 in 2FG and they are #6 the rate of attempting 3FGs...all of which fits the same theme, which is doing most things well but nothing great.

Now, on the other side, BG is 10th in EFG% and Kent is 6th at defending the shot.  As noted, BG's got to pick up the pace here.  BG is #2 in 3fg% but #9 in 2FG%, although they don't take a high rate of 3s.  Anyway, the other element that could be a test.  BG relies on FTs, which they have been getting fewer of.  They need to get back on the wagon with that.

Kent's leading scorer is a 6'2" G...Kevin Zabo.  He's a SR, came to Kent from a JUCO.  He only averaged 5.6 PPG last yeat but this year is north of 18 PPG, #5 in the MAC (in MAC Play).  He's a good shooter, shooting 47% on all FGs and 41% on 3FG.  Their second lead scorer is Jaylin Walker, the better-known player.  He's a JR who was MAC tournament MVP last year.  He's scoring 16.2 PPG, shooting 41% and 39% and 4.2 RPG.

Kent's new transfer (once went to St. John's) is Adonia DeLa Rosa, a 7'0" player scoring 13 a game and averaging 9 rebounds.  He's shooting 55%.  Wiggins struggled on defense against UT and he'll need to be much better on Saturday against DeLa Rosa.

Jalen Avery, their leading assist man, has 34 assists over only 6 turnovers, the top ratio in the MAC and it isn't especially close.

So this is an opportunity for BG to put some of the struggles behind them and hold serve on home court.  Kent is playing well and has strong guards and a big man.  BG is capable of playing their best and taking them down, but that's what it might take.