MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — The Bowling Green State University men’s basketball program picked up their second consecutive win Tuesday night, defeating the Central Michigan Chippewas 83-61 in Mount Pleasant.
The Falcons took an early lead, creating a 29-point advantage by the halftime break. The Falcons maintained their lead through the second half, capturing the final. The win moves the Falcons to 4-3 within MAC play and 10-10- on the season.
Leon Ayers III led the Falcons on the stat sheet with his fourth straight 20-point game, finishing with 24, including 19 in the first half alone. Samari Curtis added 19 off the bench, including 14 from the free throw line. Chandler Turner flirted with a double-double as well for BGSU, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds.
“We came out and we competed. Energy and effort was brought today,” BGSU coach Michael Huger said. “The hardest thing to coach is energy and effort and a couple of those losses we took, I’m coaching energy and effort instead of the team. So, that was the first thing.
“Hats off to the guys, we talked about it. Hopefully, we made a turn in the right direction from it. The guys played extremely hard and competed on both ends of the court. Competed on the defensive end, competed on the offensive end,” Huger continued.
“We did a great job sharing the ball that first half, the ball left our hands easy. Still too many turnovers for my liking, we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. It’s little mistakes, it’s not anything major, but it’s something that I don’t want to grow and be bigger than what it is.”
The Falcons came out fast. Ayers got the team going with a jumper before Kaden Metheny added a triple. The scoring continued with an elbow jumper from Turner followed by a euro step on one possession and a driving layup on the next by Brenton Mills to give BGSU an 11-4 advantage at the first media timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Turner logged a steal and found Ayers in transition for a three to extend the BGSU run to 9-0 with a double-digit lead at 14-4. The run reached 11-0 with Rashaun Agee backing down his man in the paint for the layup the next time down.
Bowling Green kept the pressure on offensively, going on an 11-2 stretch to increase their lead to 27-11.
Another run by the Falcons, this time a 7-0 stretch, extended the Bowling Green advantage to 46-19. The Orange and Brown maintained the lead through the end of the first half, heading to the locker room up 52-23, being paced by Ayers with 19 points.
The two teams kept pace early in the second half, heading to the first media timeout with the score at 60-31 BGSU with both teams logging eight second half points.
The Chippewas slowly chipped away at the Falcons’ lead, trimming it to 23 at the next media break with the score at 65-42 BGSU. The lead remained in the favor of the Falcons going into the under-8 media timeout with Bowling Green leading 70-45.
BGSU added two points of the timeout, but Central responded with a 6-0 run to cut into the lead 72-51.
Curtis continued a strong second half by drawing a foul on a drive. The foul was called against Jesse Zarzuela, the fifth foul for the Chippewas’ leading scoring to see his exit from the game. Curtis made the free throw to push the BGSU lead to 79-53. The Falcons were able to hold their advantage to the final whistle.
The Falcons shot 55.3% from the field in the game to mark the eighth time in the last nine games that BGSU has recorded a field goal percentage of 49% or higher.
Ayers’ outing moved his season point tally to 373 points, marking a new single-season high for his collegiate career. Ayers also splashed a career-high five three-pointers, shooting a career-best 5-of-6 (83.3%) from behind the arc.
Curtis went 14-of-16 from the free throw line, becoming the first Falcon to make 10 or more free throws since Justin Turner made 12 against Miami on Jan. 21, 2021. Curtis’ 16 attempts were also the most by a Falcon since Turner attempted 15 against Buffalo on Dec. 6, 2020. Curtis ended the game with 19 points and six rebounds, tying his season-high for each stat.
Gabe O’Neal recorded six points and six rebounds while adding his first steal of the season. The six rebounds for O’Neal matched his season-high.
Bowling Green is now 8-0 this year and 100-11 during the Coach Huger Era when leading five minutes left in the game. BGSU is also 9-0 this season and 108-7 under Huger when leading with two minutes left.
The victory pushes the Falcons above .500 within the MAC with a 4-3 standing and at .500 on the season with a 10-10 record.
With the win, BGSU extended their advantage in the all-time series against Central Michigan, holding a record of 45-40 all-time over the Chippewas. BGSU has now won five of the last seven meetings.
The Falcons will close out their stretch of four road games in five contests with the Battle of I-75 against Toledo on Saturday with a 2 p.m. tip at Savage Arena.