Bowling Green’s Jillian Halfhill celebrates a basket. She was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line and led the Falcons with 18 points.
Bowling Green’s Alexis Rogers drives in front of Central Michigan’s Jas’Mine Bracey. Rogers scored 10 points as Falcons improved to 22-3, 12-1 in the MAC. The Chippewas are 16-9, 12-1.
BOWLING GREEN — Since the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team lost at Central Michigan a month ago, coach Jennifer Roos changed her strategy for the rematch.
The biggest change was in the way she mentally pushed her team.
“I felt I did a disservice to our team [in the first game],” Roos said. “I had the ‘millennial’ attitude of ‘good try, good try.’ I wanted to change the way I coached in this game.
“I tried to challenge each player individually to step up in crunch time. … I’m a big hand-slapper, and I still did that. But I was able to slap some hands and yell at the same time, and our kids responded to that.”
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The Falcons responded to that tough love by knocking off the Chippewas 67-55 Wednesday night at Stroh Center. BG (22-3) won its eighth consecutive game and moved into a tie with CMU for the best record in the Mid-American Conference at 12-1.
Jennifer Halfhill finished with 18 points to lead BG. Jill Stein had 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Alexis Rogers scored 10.
Niki DiGuilio scored 15 points to lead Central Michigan (16-9), which also got 14 from Crystal Bradford and 12 from Jas’Mine Bracey.
Neither team led by more than four points in the first 13 minutes of the opening half. BG used a 12-5 run in the final seven minutes to lead 29-26 at the break.
The Falcons took command with a strong offensive performance to start the second half. BG scored on seven of its first nine possessions, with Miriam Justinger’s layup at the 15:01 mark giving the Falcons a 44-32 advantage.
“I thought we took our time more,” Halfhill said of the strong offensive start. “We were stopping them on the defensive end, getting them one-and-done.
“Then we would take our time before converting at the end of the shot clock rather than pushing tempo.”
Bowling Green was able to expand its lead to as many as 19 points in the second half before Central Michigan applied full-court pressure. The Falcons, who committed 27 turnovers in the first game, handled the pressure better and finished with 17 miscues.
“We knew they were going to press at the end, so we practiced it all week,” Halfhill said. “We got a little turnover-happy for a little bit, but them we came together and figured out a new [press] break.”
BG also did a better job on the boards, outrebounding the Chippewas 44-36 and giving up just six second-chance points.
“With such a good offensive team, you can’t give them second and third opportunities,” Stein said. “We knew [rebounding] would be a huge component in slowing them down. And it helped us control the tempo of the game.”
Six straight free throws from Halfhill late helped close out the win that Roos said was a triumph of positive mental attitude.
“In pre-game I emphasized the phrases, ‘I can’ and ‘I will,’ because I wanted them to believe that going into the game," Roos said. “And I thought our kids really stepped up.”
NOTE: BG freshman guard Kennedy Kirkpatrick will have hip surgery soon and will miss the rest of the season. She will redshirt this season.