Bowling Green State University 5-foot-10 freshman guard Jocelyn Tate scored 19 points, grabbed five rebounds and had two steals to lead the Falcons to a 69-60 Mid-American Conference victory over Kent State at the Stroh Center Wednesday.
“Jocelyn Tate was spectacular. She was such a huge catalyst for us,” BGSU coach Robyn Fralick said.
“She gave us a lot of momentum but our whole team played really tough and found a way to grind out a win.”
Time after time, Tate was finding her way to the rim, in transition, off a steal, or by making a move against taller players in the paint. She was 9-for-13 from the field.
“Joceyln is always someone who is always going to work hard, no matter what,” BGSU sophomore guard Nyla Hampton said.
“If she is confused, if she doesn’t know which way to go, one thing you can rely on is her work ethic.”
Tate was one of four Falcons in double figures, whose effort helped cement BGSU’s appearance in the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in downtown Cleveland March 9-12.
BGSU sophomore guard Nyla Hampton contributed 15 points, five assists and five steals, freshman guard Amy Velasco had 13 points, four rebounds and two steals and junior guard Elissa Brett had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Tate says it is those teammates who have been a catalyst for her, too.
“Knowing my teammates believe in me helps me believe in me, too,” Tate said. “I know that I’ve always struggled with confidence, and they always help me. Even the coaches help me with my confidence.
“Either way, they are always looking at me, or looking for me, and I just happened to be open a little more than usual,” Tate continued.
“When we would have our timeouts, we would always talk about what is open, what is not open. They just helped me see what I could not see.”
Six-foot-2 senior forward Lindsey Thall led the Golden Flashes with 22 points, hitting 9-of-13 shots, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Thall also had four rebounds, four assists, and blocked two shots.
It is BGSU’s third win in four games, with the only loss coming on a last second basket to Akron. The Falcons are 15-13 overall and 10-9 in the MAC, while Kent State falls to 17-11 and 9-10.
The Falcons and Golden Flashes played mostly bucket for bucket early in the contest until BGSU went on a 14-0 run in the second period with Tate scoring nine points during that stretch.
Tate scored off her own steal on a give-and-go with Hampton, completed an old-fashioned three-point play on a transition layup, and followed with another steal and layup.
For an encore, she added the final score during that run with 2:05 remaining in the half, giving the Falcons a 35-23 lead.
Tate credits the scouting report for giving her the courage to play aggressive defense, which created the Falcons’ offense. Fralick said the Falcons’ defense applied pressure at select moments, which seemed to confuse the Flashes.
“Definitely knowing what we were going to do on defense — we have a lot of different defensive plays but knowing which we were doing at which time was important because it can mess up a lot for us,” Tate said.
“It’s our defense and our toughness and our effort,” Tate continued. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on mostly in practices and in games, and in warm-ups, we just want our toughness to be at the highest level and then everything else will fall in.”
Despite the run, Kent State clawed their way back to make it one-possession game four times in the third quarter, but the Golden Flashes never got the lead again.
BGSU shot 46% (25-for-55) from the field, made 6-of-19 (32%) from three-point range, and connected on 13-of-17 (77%) free throws.
The Falcons’ defense forced 19 turnovers and outscored Kent State 14-1 in fast breaks. BGSU’s depth was once again key as the Falcons’ bench outscored the Flashes’ bench, 28-18.
Fralick said matchups were key as senior forward Kadie Hempfling, who scored a career-high 29 points against Akron and 18 points against Miami in two games last week, needed just two points in 13-plus minutes.
Hempfling contributed on the floor but was noticeably a key cheerleader on the bench and on the court.
BGSU fifth-year senior guard Madisen Parker scored six points on hitting 2-of-3 triples and sophomore guard Morgan Sharps added three points on a triple.
BGSU sophomore guard Kenzie Lewis and 6-2 sophomore forward Sophie Dziekan combined to play nearly 40 minutes. Although neither scored, Lewis had three assists and Dziekan had two dishes.
Kent State shot 42% (24-for-57) from the floor, made 7-of-25 treys (28%) and 5-of-8 (63%) free throws. The Flashes held a narrow 35-32 edge off the glass.
Senior guard Hannah Young had 10 points and four rebounds and 6-3 freshman forward Bridgett Dunn had eight points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists for the Flashes.
Nila Blackford, a 6-2 junior forward, had six points and six rebounds, sophomore guard Casey Santoro had six points and four assists, and junior guard Claire Kelly had four points, four rebounds and three assists.
Senior guard Mariah Modkins, the smallest player on the floor at 5-1, and junior guard Katie Shumate scored two points each for the Golden Flashes.
It was the final regular season game for the Falcon women at the Stroh Center this season.
“The Stroh was rocking tonight. Our fans were awesome. It was really a special game,” Fralick said.
“It felt like March basketball. It felt like every possession was the most important possession of the year,” Fralick continued. “I thought we just gutted out a win against a good team.”
The Falcons wrap up the regular-season schedule with a trip to Western New York. BGSU faces Buffalo on Saturday, March 5 with tipoff at 2 p.m. at Alumni Arena.