Morgan State’s full court pressure did more to help Bowling Green State University’s cause — and hurt the Bears’ cause — in a men’s basketball game at the Stroh Center Saturday.
Bowling Green stormed back from a 14-point deficit, outscoring the Bears 52-34 in the second half on the way to an 86-76 non-league victory.
BGSU 6-foot-5 senior guard Leon Ayers III had 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals and 6-4 senior guard Samari Curtis had 18 points and three assists to lead the Falcons.
Rashaun Agee, a 6-8 junior forward, had 17 points and nine rebounds and 6-7 senior forward ChandlerTurner put up 13 points with six rebounds and three assists.
Morgan State (3-6) came in scoring at least 123 points in two games this year, so the Falcons knew the Bears were going to force an up-tempo pace. The Bears pressed the entire game.
The Falcons had difficulty stopping two senior guards, Malik Miller, who had 24 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, and Isaiah Burke, who had 22 points with three assists.
Agee said the difference between the first and second halves was “energy and effort.”
“The first half I felt like we had energy, but it was up and down,” Agee said. “So, it was only energy on the offensive end.
“In the second half our defensive efforts picked up, diving on the floor, blocking shots and just giving more of an effort. “
Turner added, “I think our energy was way better the second half. It led to better defense, getting stops, rebounds and easy transition, and easy catch and shoot threes.
“Then shots started falling and we started getting in the groove of the game. We just need to start the game like that as well and not wait.
“I think (the press) helped us,” Turner continued. “They are not the only team that is going to press. Teams press at the end of the game, and that is good to play a team that presses all the time so we can learn to be comfortable with that.
“So, I don’t know what it does for them, but I think it helped us tremendously.”
BGSU coach Michael Huger agreed that the press was what the doctor ordered to help the Falcons snap a four-game losing streak and improve to 3-5.
“The biggest thing was the press,” Huger said. “We don’t see the press like that often.
“Most teams don’t press that way, don’t play that way, and then you have teams that pick up full court but not an all-out press from the start in trying to get the game up-tempo.”
Leading 42-34 at halftime, Morgan State scored the first six points of the second half, taking a 48-34 lead.
The Falcons did not score until Turner tipped in a missed shot after three minutes and 45 seconds expired, so the 52-point second half outburst actually occurred in just over 16 minutes of basketball.
So, with 15:44 remaining, Huger called a timeout, and the Falcons installed their own press, speeding the game up even more.
“I thought we came out in the second half very flat and just not ready to go, so I wanted to change the tempo and we went with the press,” Huger said.
“We had to make an adjustment. We practiced it the day before. We went over our press, and we actually looked good in our press, so that helped us in the second half.
“We just used the press that we normally do and that helped them turn it over in the second half.”
As a result, the Falcons took 96 total shots — they were 25-for-54 (46%) from the field, 6-for-18 (33%) from three-point range and made 30-of-42 free throws.
That included four free throws made by Curtis when Morgan State coach Kevin Broadus was whistled for two straight technical fouls and ejected with 1:55 remaining.
Ayers and Agee were fouled nine times each, with Agee making 9-of-11 at the line and Agee making 5-of-8. Huger says the way Agee is playing, we are going to see a lot more of him at the line.
“He’s accepting his role right now and doing a great job of playing well coming off the bench, giving us a big spark off the bench, and he’s rebounding the ball extremely well, but most importantly he’s making his free throws right now,” Huger said.
“The guy is going to get fouled. He plays physical, plays extremely hard and now he’s knocking down his free throws and making teams pay for fouling.”
Huger said the second half showed that more players are learning to accept their roles.
“The biggest thing now is knowing your role but accepting your role,” Huger said. “That’s the thing. That was the challenge of getting guys to accept their role.”
Turner added, “I feel like we are becoming more comfortable playing together because we all are from different teams, a bunch of new people, and we need to get back into the flow.
“Now, we’ve gotten back into the flow, and we are starting to figure things out, and as you can see the results as well.”
Agee added, “I feel like we already figured out how to play with each other, now it is just figuring out where we need the ball, where people want to get the ball, catch the ball and shoot — little things to help each other out to continue to be better.”
For the Falcons, freshman guard Anthony McComb III had five points, four rebounds and three assists and freshman guard Willie Lightfoot had five points and two assists.
BGSU freshman forward Sam Towns had three points and four rebounds, senior guard Isaac Elsasser scored two points and senior forward Gabe O’Neal added one point.
Huger said Elsasser, a Bowling Green High School graduate, is another player who already understood his role, helping to implement the press and stepping in down the stretch when maintaining ball control became an issue.
“Isaac Elsasser came in and understood what kind of press we were playing, and how to utilize the press,” Huger said. “He’s been here for quite some time, so he knows all of this stuff, and he did a great job of bringing the energy up and guys fed off of that.”
As a result, BGSU’s bench outscored Morgan State’s, 25-10. BGSU had a narrow 38-36 advantage off the glass, and the Falcons had 22 turnovers to Morgan State’s 16.
The Bears, who also got 12 points from 6-8 senior center Khalil Turner, were 29-for-64 (45%) shooting from the field, 10-for-22 (46%) from downtown and made 8-of-13 free throws.