Falcons must beat Rockets, and get a little help

When the Bowling Green State University men’s basketball team travels to take on I-75 rival Toledo Friday at Savage Arena, a lot more will be at stake than winning a rivalry game.

It started when the BGSU team defeated Ohio, 80-77, on Tuesday at the Stroh Center, keeping the Falcons’ Mid-American Conference Tournament hopes alive.

In the win over Ohio, the Falcons utilized a team approach with four players reaching double-digit points.

BGSU fifth-year senior 6-foot-6 forward Daeqwon Plowden and 6-9 senior forward Matiss Kulackovskis led the way with 18 points each.

Six-foot-4 junior guard Samari Curtis added 16 and 6-6 graduate forward Trey Diggs had 13 in the home finale.

“It was definitely a strong effort from start to finish,” BGSU coach Michael Huger said. “We talked about putting together two really good halves and we were able to do that.

“Normally, in certain situations, we wouldn’t be able to finish and complete the game and we did a really good job of completing the game.”

It was a complete turnaround after losing to Ohio 85-78 at the Convocation Center in January. This time with their backs against the wall, the Falcons did what they had to do.

“It was special. We needed some help, and we got a little bit of help, but we were able to take care of our business, and that was the biggest thing is being able to handle what we can handle, control what we can control,” Huger said.

“We can only control the things that are out there, and we were able to come out victorious. It’s one game, and we wish we were able to get the other one because we’d be in much better position, but you can’t go back and do it again,” he continued.

“It’s done and we’ve just got to go back and fight like heck up in Toledo and hope we will be able to come out on the other end again.

“We’re looking forward to a great opportunity. It’s always a great crowd up there and always a lot of fun to go up there and play,” Huger added.

The Falcons (13-17 overall, 6-13 MAC) and Rockets (24-6, 16-3) will tipoff at 6:30 p.m. Friday with MAC tournament implications on the line for both teams. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Of course, despite the tournament implications, Friday’s game is still Bowling Green versus Toledo — Northwest Ohio’s biggest NCAA Division I game.

“It’s big anytime you beat Toledo in any sport,” Huger said. “It’s always fun to beat those dudes.

“It’s just the opportunity that we can control ourselves. That we can go up there and control our own destiny is what we look forward to and what you pay for.”

BGSU is currently in 10th place in the MAC and must finish in the top eight to continue in the postseason at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse March 9-12 in downtown Cleveland.

First, the Falcons must defeat Toledo.

Diggs believes, especially after the win over Ohio, that beating the Rockets is plausible.

“It just shows how much fight we really have,” Diggs said. “I mean, we have two games left in the season and we have the top two teams to play, and we come out and beat one of them.

“I think I can speak for my team, there is no better feeling than right now. There is no doubt we can go out and beat Toledo, so I’m just unbelievably proud of what we just did. You see all the smiles around in the locker room after this game and I think that just brings a lot of hope,” Diggs continued.

“When you lose six games in a row it is kind of hard to have confidence going into the next game and then beating the No. 2 team in the MAC, if you can’t get confidence from that I’m not sure what would give you confidence,” he said.

The Falcons could earn the No. 8 seed by defeating the Rockets, but in addition, Central Michigan must lose to Akron or Miami must lose to Eastern Michigan. Both of those games begin at 7 p.m. Friday on ESPN Plus.

If Miami loses it would go to tiebreakers. BGSU and Miami split head-to-head, so it would go through MAC standings.

Neither team beat Kent State (who could end up No. 1), but BGSU would have the tiebreaker with a win over Toledo.

Toledo swept Miami. Toledo is locked into one of the top two spots and only Kent State can pass them, so this is where the tiebreaker would be decided.

So, fans should keep an eye on the Buffalo at Kent State game, too, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday on ESPNU because if Kent State wins it can through the tiebreaker into even more turmoil.

The Falcons can earn the No. 7 seed if Central Michigan loses to Akron and Miami loses to Eastern Michigan, but there would still be a tiebreaker to determine if BGSU gets the No. 7 or No. 8 seed. In tiebreaker situations, it could come down to a coin flip.