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Falcons slow to start, then finish strong

03/21/2014, 12:20am EDT
By JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BG’s Miriam Justinger drives to the basket against High Point on Thursday night. Justinger scored a career-high 22 points.

BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University led High Point at halftime of its Women’s NIT contest Thursday at the Stroh Center.

But coach Jennifer Roos was far from pleased. And she let her team know about in the locker room.

“I said, ‘The elephant in the room is that we’re not in the NCAA tournament — we’re in the WNIT,’ ” Roos said. “I wanted us to just play as hard as we could.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game

“The folks in the stands probably paid $23 between parking, a game ticket, and a bottle of water. I just wanted them to see good basketball. Period. In the first half? Not so much. But in the second half they got that.”

The Falcons’ strong second-half effort propelled them to a 72-62 win against High Point. BG improved to 28-4 and will play the winner of today’s game between St. Bonaventure and Charlotte at a date, time, and place to be announced.

Miriam Justinger finished with a career-high 22 points to lead the Falcons, who also got 14 from Alexis Rogers, 11 from Erica Donovan, and 10 from Jasmine Matthews.

Stacie Robertson posted a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead High Point (22-11). Latrice Phelps and Kaylah Keys both added 13 points for the Panthers.

The Falcons, playing just their second game in two weeks, shot poorly to start the game. They missed their first six shots and connected on just 1 of 13 to fall behind 14-4 eight minutes into the contest.

“High Point took it to us at the very beginning of the game,” Roos admitted. “And we couldn’t respond. ‘Rattled’ and ‘discombobulated’ are words you could use to describe our start in the game. …

“Rust is an understatement. We haven’t practiced well, although we’ve practiced hard, we’ve practiced with enthusiasm. One-handed cross-court passes and turnovers without pressure are difficult to swallow at this time of the year.”

Bowling Green battled back to tie the game at 23-23 with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left. And after an eight-point run by the Panthers, BG responded with a 10-1 finish for a 33-32 halftime lead that Roos called “fool’s gold.”

Justinger said the talk by Roos in the locker room did not focus on strategy.

“She said it wasn’t about X’s and O’s,” Justinger said. “It was about playing with heart, playing for the university, playing for yourselves and each other.

“I think we came out in the second half and executed better.”

But the Falcons never were able to pull away, with neither team leading by more than five points and four ties coming during the first 11 minutes.

Justinger broke a 52-52 tie with a layup at the nine-minute mark that sparked a 11-1 BG run over the next five minutes that was fueled by seven points by Matthews and four by Justinger, who also tied her career high with four steals and added four assists.

It helped that the Falcons forced the Panthers to miss six shots and turn the ball over five times. High Point had 12 turnovers in the second half and 20 overall.

“We were able to get some hands in the passing lanes and disrupt their flow,” Roos said. “[Miriam’s] length bothers a lot of people, and she’s a smart kid.

“She had a lot of energy, and she was able to play with that energy at both ends of the floor.”

High Point was able to cut the deficit to 65-61 with 2:20 left, but the Falcons made five of their final six free throws to complete the win.

NOTES: Bowling Green’s 28 victories this season is tied for the fifth-most in program history. … The Falcons improved to 14-0 at the Stroh Center, tying the program record for home wins in a season. … The 10-point margin of victory made Thursday’s game the closest home game BG has played all season.

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

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