KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Let’s call a spade a spade.
Or, to be more accurate, let’s call a bad call a bad call.
Yes, the Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team did not play a perfect game at Western Michigan Tuesday. The Falcons got pounded on the boards and struggled to make 3-pointers in the second half, and they turned the ball over 15 times.
But BG’s 89-79 loss to the Broncos at University Arena also hinged on fouls — especially the 30 that were called on the Falcons. They allowed WMU to score 14 more points from the foul line than did Bowling Green.
“The officiating affected the game,” was all BG coach Michael Huger would say afterwards. “As players, they have to play through it; as coaches, we have to work through it.”
Those 30 fouls called fell just one shy of the team high for a Mid-American Conference game this season. Three Falcons fouled out — starters Rodrick Caldwell and Wes Alcegaire along with back-up point guard Ismail Ali — and that hamstrung BG’s substitution patterns throughout.
“You have to stay positive — but that’s tough, though,” senior Zack Denny said of the fouls. “We had three key players foul out of the game, and it’s tough when that happens.
“You just have to stay positive and keep pushing when that happens.”
Caldwell scored 15 points to lead four players in double figures for Bowling Green (11-15, 5-8 MAC). Freshman Dylan Frye and Denny each scored 13, while Alcegaire added 11.
Thomas Wilder was 15-for-15 from the foul line to finish with a career-high 38 points to lead Western Michigan (10-15, 6-7 MAC), while Tucker Haymond added 16.
Bowling Green was whistled for 14 fouls in the first half, which allowed the Broncos to shoot 18 free throws — and make 15. The Falcons stayed in the game by making 5 of 9 3-pointers in the half and holding even in the rebounding battle at 12-12.
Jarrin Randall’s 3 with five seconds left in the first period allowed Western Michigan to take a 40-37 lead at the break.
In the second half the two teams stayed close through the first 12 minutes, with a 3-pointer by BG’s Matt Fox tying the game at 63-63 with 8:07 left. But a jumper by Haymond in the paint on the next possession jump-started a nine-point run by the Broncos that essentially won the game.
The Falcons were plagued by their 3-point shooting in the second half, as they made just 3 of 12 from behind the arc.
“I thought we had really good looks from the 3-point line [in the second half] — we just missed,” Huger said. “We took the same shots we took in the first half, but they went in in the first half and did not in the second.”
WMU also outrebounded Bowling Green 26-13 in the second half, thanks in part to 10 offensive rebounds that led to 10 second-chance points.
“Rebounding can change a game,” Denny said. “Shots don’t always fall, but if you get stops and crash the glass, you can have a chance to win.
“We didn’t get stops, and when we did, we didn’t crash the glass.”
But the fouls — and the 19 trips Western Michigan took to the foul line in the second half — blunted any chance of a Falcons rally, as BG came no closer than four points after the game-deciding run.
“[All the foul calls] take away from the flow of the game,” Huger explained. “Also you can see players get into foul trouble that shouldn’t be in foul trouble.
“But the biggest problem is trying to figure out how to guard a guy. … And that plays into the hands of a guy like Wilder, who shoots 15-for-15 on some plays that were fouls — and some that were not.”
Denny said the officiating can be tough to adjust to.
“We don’t agree with them all as players, but you have to live with it,” he said.