Bowling Green State University men’s basketball let a double-digit lead slip away in the final 4:35, falling to Central Michigan, 77-74, at the Stroh Center Tuesday.
The Falcons and the Chippewas entered the game tied for the eighth and final spot that would qualify for them for the Mid-American Conference tournament, but now the urgency kicks into a higher gear for BGSU.
After the Falcons suffered their sixth straight loss Tuesday, BGSU coach Michael Huger would just like to get a win.
“I’m just trying to win a game,” Huger said. “Forget about top eight and all this stuff. Let’s just win a game and then we’ll go from there.
“But it’s frustrating when you have a 12-point lead with four minutes left and you don’t take care of the ball, you don’t make your free throws, you don’t execute down the stretch the way we were supposed to do.”
Huger said the Falcons not only struggled defensively in the final four minutes, but offensively, too. BGSU showed no urgency to score and failed to keep the foot on the gas.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do — exactly,” Huger said. “We told them in the timeout what they were going to do, exactly, ‘This is what they are going to do, this is who they are going to send.’
“Just throw it to the open man. How hard is that? I don’t think it’s hard, especially when the open man is open. He’s open. Just throw it to him. It’s simple.”
The Falcons fall to 10-16 overall and 4-9 in the MAC, while the Chippewas are 10-16 and 5-8.
The first half saw BGSU sophomore guard Kaden Metheny and senior guard Leon Ayers III combine to score 21 points, but the Falcons trailed at intermission, 33-29.
On a feed from senior guard Samari Curtis, Metheny hit a triple to put the Falcons up, 47-46, eight minutes and 39 seconds into the second half.
BGSU senior guard Isaac Elsasser tipped in a missed shot to put the Falcons up, 56-53, and then the Falcons outscored the Chippewas, 14-5 over the next three minutes to take a 70-58 lead with 4:35 remaining.
Central Michigan outscored BGSU 19-4 the rest of the way with freshman guard Reggie Bass putting the Chippewas up for good, 74-73, when he made two free throws with 17.9 seconds remaining.
“We basically stopped defending,” Huger said. “We thought the game was over when we had a 12-point lead.
“We let (CMU senior forward Brian) Taylor hit two big threes, and we said what we wanted to do, and we didn’t go out and execute what we were supposed to do. It’s frustrating.”
Bass led the Chips with 25 points, six rebounds, seven assists and he was fouled nine times. Bass was 8-for-13 from the field, including 2-for-3 from the arc and 7-for-8 from the free throw line.
Taylor, the only player on either team who never left the floor, had 14 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals, and freshman guard Max Majerle had 10 points and five rebounds.
Metheny led the Falcons with 19 points and 6-foot-8 junior forward Rashaun Agee was a powerful force in the second half for BGSU, finishing with 11 points and two steals.
Ayers had nine points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals and senior forward Chandler Turner had nine points, a team-high seven rebounds and two steals.
Elsasser, a Bowling Green High School product, also helped provide a second half lift during his 11 minutes on the court, finishing with eight points by hitting three of four field goals, including 2-for-2 from downtown and he had three rebounds.
Junior forward Sam Towns had eight points and four rebounds, Curtis had seven points, seven assists, and four rebounds, and senior forward Gabe O’Neal scored three points.
BGSU was guilty of 22 turnovers and forced the Chippewas into 17, and the Falcons owned a 34-31 advantage off the glass. But Central outscored BGSU, 34-24, in the paint.
BGSU had 11 offensive rebounds, outscoring Central 11-4 on second chance points. The Falcons shot 44% (25-for-57) from the field, were 9-for-19 (47%) from the arc, and made 15-of-26 free throws (58%). Huger said those numbers say a lot.
“Turnovers (and) missed free throws were the game. We go over it,” Huger said. “No matter how much we tell them, you got to pay attention to details and all of this stuff. We don’t have 50,000 timeouts that we can call and we’ve’ got to pay attention.”
Central made 28-of-53 shots (53%) from the floor, hit on 50% from the arc (9-for-18), and were 12-for-17 from the line.
It does not get any easier for the Falcons, as they host rival and league-leading Toledo (20-6, 11-2) this Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Stroh Center.
“If you can’t get up for that game, then you are not a basketball player,” Metheny said. “You’re not a competitor, so we need to put this one behind us, which we will, especially with this game coming up.
“They got our number last game (91-77 Toledo win at Savage Arena). They put it to us so we remember that taste in our mouth, so we are going to be ready,” Metheny continued.
Huger hopes the Falcons can build off the same energy they showed when Metheny and Ayers were hot in the first half, and when Agee and Elsasser were hot in the second Tuesday night.
“I hope so,” Huger said. “The only thing that matters now is beating Toledo. We need everybody. All hands-on deck to be ready to play.
“Hopefully we can execute better and make our free throws, and hopefully we can get a couple stops. They are very good offensively, so we’ve got to figure out a way to be able to score with them and get some stops,” Huger continued.’
“That’s the biggest thing right there, and not turning the ball over against their defense as we did in the first game.”