Bowling Green State University sophomore guard Amy Velasco hit a three-point shot on the Falcons’ first possession of the fourth quarter, giving BGSU a 61-31 lead against Memphis in a WNIT Super 16 game Thursday.
Velasco’s triple came after BGSU had outscored Memphis, 28-8 in the third quarter. The Falcons held on to defeat the Tigers, 73-60, at the Stroh Center to earn their 30th win against six losses, while Memphis sees its season end at 22-11.
The Falcons will take on Florida (19-14) Monday at the Stroh Center, with tipoff at 6 p.m., in the WNIT quarterfinals, a.k.a., “The Great Eight.” The Gators defeated Clemson, 73-63, in South Carolina Thursday.
BGSU got four players into double figures, led by senior forward Allison Day, who had 18 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
“It’s super exciting. Thirty wins, that is a lot, and I hope that is not as many as we get,” Day said. “This team is really fun to play with and we like playing basketball.
“I think you can tell that, so going into the next game that is what we are going to focus on, just being together and having fun.”
The 6-foot-1 Day was posting up against the Tigers’ tallest at 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, and 6-2, who are used to winning games by controlling the offensive glass. The Tigers still had a 46-41 edge in rebounding, including 20-9 on the offensive boards.
“That’s part of their offensive gameplan is offensive rebounds so we knew that going into the game,” Day said. “A big part of it was once they did get an offensive rebound, we don’t quit playing.
“We’ve got to have our hands up and contest the next shot and box out again if we can. They had 15 second chance points and that could have been a lot more with their offensive rebounds, so if we just keep playing we are bound to get one, and that helps.”
As far as Memphis’ height goes, Day effectively, says: No big deal. The Falcons have seen it before.
“I think you prepare for it, and we’ve gone against big posts in our league, and that helped us prepare for it,” Day said. “So, you kind of plan for it — you have a little strategy going into it, but you don’t let that change your gameplan or change who you are.”
BGSU senior guard Elissa Brett had 15 points, six rebounds and two steals, sophomore guard Jocelyn Tate had 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists, and junior guard Lexi Fleming had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.
The 5-5 Fleming showed her toughness against the taller Tigers, and was repeatedly knocked down during a physical game, but she would display a smile and bounce right back every time.
“Lexi is a sparkplug,” BGSU coach Robyn Fralick said. “The thing I always share about Lexi when people ask me is, what is she? Well, Lexi is a winner.
“Some nights that is making threes, some nights that is taking four charges, some nights that is coming up with five loose balls,” Fralick continued. “Since she’s been here, we’ve won a lot of games. When she’s been in uniform, we’ve won a lot of games. When she was in high school (Cincinnati McAuley), she won a lot of games.
“It’s a credit to her. She’s a kid who literally will do whatever it takes to find a way to impact a way for our team to win.”
Sophomore guard Velasco started in the place of junior guard Nyla Hampton, the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year who was sitting on the bench wearing a walking boot. Velasco had nine points and dished out six assists, playing all but one minute and 17 seconds out of 40 minutes.
“She did a really great job, and we knew that we were going to have step up, everybody on the court, whether it is for someone with foul trouble or anything else,” Day said. “Amy did a great job on defense and also on offense, just taking care of the ball.”
BGSU junior forward Sophie Dziekan had four points and five rebounds and senior forward Kadie Hampfling scored three points.
Fralick said her team was playing at its best when outscoring the Tigers 28-8 in the third stanza, controlling nearly every aspect of the game.
“It was magical. I thought we did a good job getting stops and connecting stops with scores. Elissa hit a few in a row, Allison got going really strong to start the second half, setting a tone inside. It was fun,” Fralick said.
“The team is fun. They play hard, they play together, they kind of just do what it takes for each other. I thought the third quarter just illustrated our team at a great level of job, energy, enthusiasm, and togetherness.”
The Falcons’ defense was visibly frustrating the Tigers. At halftime Memphis was shooting 21% (6-for-28) from the field and they finished at 29% (19-for-65), while the Falcons shot 42% (23-for-55) from the floor.
Fifth-year guard Jamirah Shutes led the Tigers with 13 points and four rebounds, but she had six turnovers.
Senior guard Madison Griggs had 12 points, three assists and three steals, sophomore forward Hannah Riddick had 12 points and six caroms, and 6-4 freshman center Destiny Thomas had four points and 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, but she had five turnovers.
Even though Memphis had just one more turnover (18-17), BGSU committed 10 in the fourth quarter, including seven steals. In the final 10 minutes, the Tigers were desperate, implementing a suffocating full court pressure defense to rebound from their 30-point deficit earlier in the quarter.
“The press was difficult to get through, but we knew that they were tough and physical,” Day said. “They beat Ball State (to reach the Super 16) and you don’t do that without being tough and physical. We handled it well and we’re just going to move on.”
Fralick said with a 30-point lead, she cannot blame her players for wanting to slow it down, especially since the game had been so physical and up-tempo up to that point.
“We got a big enough lead, so that helped. They kind of cranked it up a bit, but we made enough baskets and I thought we got enough stops,” Fralick said.
“We turned it over too much, but some of that is how the game changes, the way you’re playing. We’re playing to take care of the ball and they are playing because they have to get the ball back. That part of the game, some of it is just the context of the game.
“But man, what a cool win. That Memphis team is a real good team. They have had a great season. They are physical, we knew that rebounding was going to be a big deal and I just thought our kids battled their tails off tonight.”