Falcons blow lead, fall to Flashes, 79-69

Bowling Green State University and Kent State University’s men’s basketball teams played a back-and-forth game at the Stroh Center Saturday with BGSU taking a five-point lead into halftime. A strong second half by Kent State pushed KSU ahead for the 79-69 final.

BGSU had four players reach double-digit points and nearly had five with Brenton Mills concluding with nine points and a team-high nine rebounds. Chandler Turner and Samari Curtis each finished with 11 points while Leon Ayers III and Kaden Metheny each had 10.

The Falcons had a chance to upset the Golden Flashes, but came up short, suffering their ninth straight loss to fall to 10-19 overall and 4-12 in the Mid-American Conference. Kent State improves to 23-6 and 13-3.

BGSU coach Michael Huger does not believe all is lost despite the nine-game stretch because of what he saw in a recent loss to Toledo and the loss to Kent State, both winnable games for the Falcons. He adds that if the Falcons can win out, they still have a shot at qualifying for the MAC Tournament, which takes the top eight teams in the league.

“I thought against Toledo we played a truly complete game,” Huger said. “A couple calls against us that kind of turned the game in their favor.

“When you have that, you kind of feel like you got cheated a little bit. You didn’t get the full ‘thing,’ so when you play that way and you give yourself a chance, of course, you feel optimistic moving forward with the opponents you have left. You still have a chance to win and still get a chance to go to Cleveland (MAC Tournament), so you always feel that way even after tonight.

“As crazy as it sounds, if we still win two games at the end, we still possibly have a chance to go to Cleveland. So, it’s just the craziest thing right now. Basketball is in a crazy spot for some of us and some of us are driving and doing well,” Huger continued.

“I know one of the teams that was driving and doing well and able to bring back the core group, those are the teams that are having success right now. We just have to continue to fight, continue to improve, and continue to work hard.

“The one thing I can say is we haven’t quit. A lot of guys that I’ve spoken to in the business, their teams have quit on them and just not playing for them anymore. We don’t have that right now so that’s been the good that the guys are still hungry and trying to win. We just have to figure out a way to win rather than figuring out a way to lose.”

Huger wanted Saturday’s victory for his five seniors to celebrate Senior Night and because it would have been the 90th birthday for the late Kerm Stroh, whose donation helped make the Stroh Center possible. The Falcons did lead for the majority of the game.

“We were trying to get the victory and it is always disappointing in a loss. There are always a lot of things we are trying to do and trying to accomplish,” Huger said. “That was something personal for me in trying to get the victory tonight and we didn’t do it. It’s getting frustrating and it’s getting old and it’s time to turn the page and get one and be able to do it and stick together.”

At halftime, BGSU owned a 42-37 lead, but they were outscored 42-27 over the final 20 minutes.

“We just struggled to execute in the end, defensively and offensively,” Turner said. “That’s a good team. They are one of the top teams in the conference. We’ve got to bring 40 minutes and I feel like the last four or five minutes we struggled to execute and they did (execute). If we want to get wins, we just have to come back, regroup and get ready for Eastern (Michigan).”

Huger added, “I thought we were really good defensively. We did exactly what we were supposed to do. We were in the right spots on our help side defense, we were able to defend and get out and score in transition.

“I thought the second half we started that way, we did it in spurts at times, and all of a sudden we stopped sharing the ball and we just stopped doing the things that it took to get us to that point. When you do that it is always difficult to win games, especially with a team that is proven, that has been together for some years and understands what it takes to win, how to win, and that’s been the difference.”

Kent State shot 45% (26-for-56) from the field, while the Falcons made just 37% (23-for-62) of their shots, including 2-for-18 (11%) from the arc. The Golden Flashes were 7-for-22 (32%) from the arc, 20-for-26 (77%) from the free throw line, while BGSU was 21-for-27 (78%) from the stripe.

As a team, the Falcons tallied 12 assists in the game, the team’s fourth straight game with at least 10 assists. In the team’s 29 games, Bowling Green has finished with 10-plus assists 22 times.

Metheny had two assists and added another triple to his season tally, now with 65. Metheny needs one more to tie, and two to pass Trey Diggs for 10th in program history for three-pointers made in a single season. Metheny made a season-high five trips to the free throw line, making all five attempts as one of three Falcons to be perfect at the line in the game.

With four rebounds in the game, Samari Curtis brought his season total to 92, setting a new career-high for rebounds in a single season, previously set at 90 from last season.

After entering the night with just one career block, Bowling Green High School product Isaac Elsasser, a senior, tallied two in the game for the Falcons, plus he was 2-for-3 from the field in scoring four points.

Brenton Mills led the Falcons in rebounds with a career-high nine, including a career-high five on the offensive end of the court. Mills also tallied a team-high two steals in the game.

The Falcons recognized five seniors before the game and started all five with 6-foot-11 senior Madani Diarra recording a rebound in his first start. Huger said Diarra, a transfer from Indian Hills Community College, could play another year, which will be discussed at the end of the season.

The Falcons will host their final home game of the 2022-23 regular season on Tuesday, hosting NBA prospect Emoni Bates and the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The theme for the game will be Rocky Night at the Stroh Center ahead of the theatrical release of Creed III.