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Cardinals stun Falcons

03/15/2014, 1:36am EDT
By JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Ball State deals blow to BG’s NCAA hopes


Bowling Green's Alexis Rogers heads up the court after coming up with a loose ball at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Rogers contributed nine points, two steals, and pulled down 10 rebounds.

BOWLING GREEN — For 30 games the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team carefully crafted a resume the Falcons hoped would make them worthy of a bid in the NCAA tournament.

But all of that may have come crashing down in one Mid-American Conference tournament semifinal game at Quicken Loans Arena Friday.

No. 25 BG suffered a 73-55 loss to an 18-15 Ball State team, a setback that may doom the Falcons to a WNIT bid for the third straight season.

“It’s frustrating,” senior guard Jillian Halfhill said. “This year has been incredible for Bowling Green. We’ve put a lot of work in, and we’re 27-4 after beating some huge teams.

“I feel our body of work is incredible. So to not know [our NCAA tournament fate] is frustrating. But I feel we really deserve it.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game.

That may not be good enough after the Falcons saw a 13-game winning streak come to an end in a blaze of 3-pointers by the Cardinals, who connected on 8-of-15 from behind the arc in the first half (53.3 percent) and 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) for the game.

“They just weren’t missing,” Halfhill said. “We were pushing up on them, hands in their face, contested shots. And they were dropping.

“Making 3’s is contagious. When they started dropping, they were dropping for all of them. At one point it felt like they were just chucking up shots — and they were going in.”

Erica Donovan scored 17 points to lead Bowling Green, while Halfhill had 14.

Shelbie Justice scored 21 points to lead five players in double figures for Ball State. Brandy Woody scored 16 and Brittany Carter 13, while Nathalie Fontaine and Katie Murphy each had 10.

In the first half Bowling Green was unable to keep the Cardinals from making 3’s as Justice connected on 4-of-5 on the way to 16 points while Carter made 3-of-6.

When BSU connected on its final four 3-pointers of the first half, the Falcons missed their final four and trailed 33-27.

“We were playing from behind most of the game,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “We were getting a lot of good looks, but we couldn’t get them to fall.”

In the second half Ball State switched its offensive strategy to spread the floor and create scoring opportunities in the lane. The strategy worked perfectly as the Cards scored 14 points in the paint and created 18 free-throw chances, making 15.

“We’re a ‘gap’ team, and when we would take away the gap they would kick it out and [make] the shot,” Donovan said. “When we would push up on the 3, they would still make it.

“They were very patient with their offense, working the ball until they got a shot.”

Meanwhile, the Falcons’ offense struggled in the second half, scoring just 28 points. 

BG created just 11 free-throw attempts and made just five while making 35.7 percent of its shots from the floor.

“We couldn’t turn the corner to get north and south and get to the foul line,” Roos said. “This is the first time I can remember that we didn’t make more foul shots then the other team attempted.

“Winning the foul line battle was imperative because … Ball State is a mirror of what we do. Getting to the foul line, getting people in foul trouble, and making foul shots is what this is about. And we couldn’t get that done.”

As a result, the Falcons are left to hope that an RPI that ranks 27th-best in Division I women’s basketball, a 27-4 record, and 6-3 mark against Top 100 RPI teams is enough to claim an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.

“I told [the players] they needed to walk out of the lockerroom with their heads held high,” Roos said. "Most teams across the country are done when they lose their last game, but this team has a chance to play in more postseason competition. The elephant in the room is what postseason tournament will that be.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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