Falcons score 31 in the fourth to beat Akron, 71-66

AKRON, Ohio – The Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team battled back from a double-digit deficit to stun the University of Akron, 71-66, Saturday in a Mid-American Conference thriller at James A. Rhodes Arena.

Morgan Sharps single-handily matched Akron’s scoring output in the fourth quarter, while Elissa Brett reached a milestone in the win.

Brett scored 16 points to pace four double-digit scorers for the Falcons (14-2, 3-1 MAC). And, with a three-point field goal midway through the second quarter, Brett became just the 30th player in program history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau.

“Today was a great example of playing through for the full 40 minutes,” BGSU coach Robyn Fralick said. “A lot of credit to Akron; they are a very good team, and they are stingy defensively. But, we just kept battling. In the fourth quarter, I thought we played with great effort and toughness.

“Nothing today was easy. We had to work hard on every possession, even in the fourth quarter when we were able to make a run. I’m really proud of the team’s grit, toughness and stick-with-it-ness to finish the game and come away with a win today.”

Allison Day had 14 points and a team-leading seven rebounds for the Falcons, with Sharps scoring 13 and Jocelyn Tate 12.

Sharps had all 13 of her points in the fourth quarter, matching the entire Akron team’s offensive output in the final 10 minutes.

BG outscored the Zips (12-3, 3-1 MAC) by a 31-13 count in that fourth period.

Molly Neitzel led the hosts with 20 points, with Dominique Camp adding 14 and Reagan Bass 11. The Zips, who entered the day alone in first place in the MAC, saw a seven-game winning streak snapped.

BGSU shot just 25 percent from the floor in the first half, and trailed by nine points at the intermission. The Falcons began the second half with a 7-0 run, but the Zips answered with a run of their own, extending the lead to 14 on a Rachel Martindale three-point play with 4:21 left in the third quarter.

Four free throws in the final minute gave the Zips a 13-point lead, 53-40, after three quarters, but a 9-0 run early in the fourth period got the Falcons within four.

Neitzel got a putback, then answered a Day layup with a three-pointer to give UA a 60-53 lead with 5:46 on the clock. But, after a Tate layup, Sharps hit a triple to put the Falcons within two.

With the score stuck at 60-58, BGSU missed four-straight shots with a chance to tie or take the lead. But, Sharps drained another long-distance try to give BG a 61-60 lead with 3:12 to go.

With 3:12 on the clock, Day’s pass resulted in another Sharps three-pointer, and the Falcons led for the first time in the game.

Akron broke the BG press, with Bass hitting a layup, but Sharps immediately countered with a floater off glass, giving the Falcons a 63-62 lead with 2:42 remaining.

On the next possession, Day went high into the air to steal a UA entry pass, and Hampton hit a contested layup try, putting the visitors up by three.

Neitzel’s open layup cut the lead to one, and a BG miss gave the ball back to the Zips. But, Fleming stole the ball from Ferrell near midcourt, passing the ball to Hampton before taking a return pass for a layup and a 67-64 lead with 1:18 to go.

Camp saw a low-percentage shot drop, and the lead was again a single point, and a BGSU missed shot along with a double foul gave the ball back to the Zips with 41.9 seconds remaining.

Martindale missed a three-point attempt, and Fleming was fouled as she dove to the floor for the rebound. Her free throws with 26.5 seconds left gave BG a 69-66 lead.

Fleming then blocked a step-back three-point try by Ferrell, and Sharps was fouled after grabbing the rebound. Her tosses gave BG a five-point lead, and Day rebounded another Akron miss in the final seconds.

The Falcons were 12-of-22 (54.5%) from the field in the fourth quarter, with Akron going 6-for-14 (42.9%) in that time. BGSU forced Akron into eight fourth-quarter turnovers, and the Falcons did not commit a turnover in the final 10 minutes.

Akron shot 40.7% from the field, while BGSU had a 36.4% success rate. The Falcons went 7-of-27 (25.9%) from three-point range, while UA was 4-for-18 (22.2%) from the arc.

The Zips went 18-of-20 at the stripe, where BG was a perfect 8-for-8. The Falcons had a 42-39 rebounding advantage, and BGSU had 18 offensive boards.

BG had advantages of 42-30 in points in the paint, 16-13 in points off turnovers, 11-8 in second chance points and 15-8 in fast-break points.

For the game, BGSU had nine turnovers, and forced Akron into 18. It marked the 16th time in as many games this season that BG had fewer turnovers than the opponent.

The Falcons return home for the next two games, beginning with Wednesday’s “Battle of I-75” matchup vs. Toledo. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. for Wednesday’s Orange-Out at the Stroh Center.

Then, the Falcons will once again be at the Stroh next Saturday (Jan. 21), taking on Kent State in a 1 p.m. start.