The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball program went down to the last minute with the Akron Zips Tuesday night at the Stroh Center, but fell 74-70.
The Falcons and Zips battled through a tight contest that never saw a double-digit lead. Bowling Green narrowed the gap to just one with under two minutes left, but couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“I thought our guys competed,” BGSU coach Michael Huger said. “I thought we played extremely hard. I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win the game.
“We just have to execute down the stretch. We have to do a better job of executing. We have to make our free throws. All the stuff that’s the difference between winning and losing.”
The loss moves BGSU to 2-1 on the young MAC season while being 8-8 overall this year.
Senior guard Leon Ayers III paced the Falcons offensively with a team-high 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. Ayers led the Falcons in scoring for the ninth time this season and he has recorded double-digit points in all but one of BGSU’s 16 games this season.
Sophomore guard Kaden Metheny followed closely with 16 and filled up the stat sheet with a season high six rebounds, matching a career high six assists and getting three steals while hitting four three-pointers.
The double-digit scoring efforts concluded with 6-foot-8 junior forward Rashaun Agee’s 11 points and four rebounds for the Falcons.
The Falcons and Zips traded baskets early in the game before BGSU went on an 8-0 run. The run was highlighted by a Metheny steal that turned into an alley oop to Ayers to force an Akron timeout with BG up 19-14.
The BGSU lead stretched to nine, the largest lead of the game, with the score at 28-19, but Akron soon narrowed the gap. The Zips went on a 9-0 run to tie it up at 33-33 before each team made a three-pointer to send the score to 36-36 at the half.
Akron made the first basket of the second half, but the Falcons retaliated with a 7-0 burst to take a 43-39 advantage. BGSU maintained the lead until an 8-0 run for the Zips pushed Akron ahead 60-58.
The two teams traded buckets, heading to the media timeout with Bowling Green up 63-62 after a coast-to-coast layup by BGSU senior guard and Bowling Green High School product Isaac Elsasser off a strong defensive effort and rebound.
Out of the timeout, Akron moved back in front 66-63, but a 5-0 spurt for BGSU pushed the Falcons back in front 68-66 before another media break.
Another 5-0 run, this time in favor of Akron, swung the score back to the Zips at 71-68. The Falcons were able to come within one at 71-70, but Akron made free throws down the stretch to clinch the 74-70 final.
For the fifth consecutive game, the Falcons shot at least 49% from the field, finishing with a mark of 49.1%. Over the five-game stretch, Bowling Green is shooting 52.7% (158-of-300) from the field.
As a team, Bowling Green made 10 three-pointers in the game. This marks the third straight game with exactly 10 triples for the Falcons, knocking down 10 in each MAC game so far this season.
Elsasser tallied five points on the night to bring his season total to 52 points. That mark sets a new career-high for points in a single season for Elsasser. He added five rebounds and an assist to his stat line.
Senior guard Brenton Mills filled the stat sheet for the Falcons, hitting three of his four three-point shots for nine points. Mills also recorded a season-high six rebounds, tying for the team lead, and his first block of the season.
BGSU senior guard Samari Curtis made both of his free throw attempts on the night, stretching his streak to 36 consecutive made free throws.
Curtis entered the game sixth in the country for free throw percentage and managed to improve his mark to 94.4% on the season.
The Falcons will be back on the road for their next two contests, first traveling to Kalamazoo, Mich. on Saturday to face Western Michigan. Bowling Green and the Broncos are set for a matinee tip at 1 p.m.