The Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team was without two starters in beating Memphis, 73-60, during a WNIT Super 16 tournament game at the Stroh Center Thursday.
Now, the 30-6 Falcons might be missing a third starter when they take on Florida (19-14) in a WNIT quarterfinal at the Stroh Center Monday (6 p.m. tipoff).
In line shaking hands after the game, Memphis guard Jamirah Shutes punched BGSU senior Elissa Brett in the face, knocking her to the ground.
Brett stayed on the ground for several minutes as her teammates huddled around, but when she got up she was already beginning to show signs of swelling around her eye.
BGSU was already playing without senior guard Morgan Sharps, who is out for the season, and junior guard Nyla Hampton.
Hampton, the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was injured in last week’s WNIT win over Green Bay and was wearing a walking boot. BGSU coach Robyn Fralick says Hampton is “day to day,” not ruling out that she could play against Florida Monday.
As for, Brett, who is from Adelaide, Australia, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
“We’re still trying to figure out all those things out and what happened,” Fralick said. “That’s just a lot of different conversations with people involved and we’re still trying to move together on that and what is going to happen.”
Campus police were waiting for Shutes, a fifth-year player from Brownsville, Tennessee, who led her team in scoring with 13 points but had six turnovers, outside the locker room after the game.
A healthy crowd announced at 1,879, although it seemed like more, gave the Memphis team and coaches a piece of their mind as they left the floor.
Fralick said fighting through adversity is what this team has done all season but she did not indicate that the postgame incident was part of that adversity yet.
“My gosh, this group is resilient,” Fralick said. “To go through the last three weeks of the season we’ve had, which is just a gauntlet, to make the NCAA tournament we know is a big deal, and then to come up short of that — the way this team has regrouped and continued to compete and continued to love to play at the high level that they are doing is one of the coolest things you can experience as a coach.
“To see the transformative life skills of these kids and their resilience, and their ability to continue to compete. I mean, that was their 36th game? And we ask them to play really hard with the way we play. I’m so proud of them.”
Fralick and her players did want to thank the fans for their support.
“This was a wonderful game. I love the community here and they support us night-in and night-out. We couldn’t do it without them,” said sophomore guard Amy Velasco, who started in Hampton’s place.
“This is so awesome, and it’s awesome for our program to show how wonderful Bowling Green really is.”
BGSU senior forward Allison Day, who led the Falcons with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists, said the fans played a role in the Falcons’ 28-8 third quarter run.
“It is fun to play when that momentum gets on our side, and it just keeps going like that with the fans here at The Stroh, so it is really exciting, and we really enjoyed it,” Day said.
Fralick said the support from the BGSU fan base helps her recruit basketball players.
“It’s so cool. When I came here five years ago, when we recruited all these kids this is the vision we sold,” Fralick said. “This is the vision we knew could happen with the electric atmosphere, a community that loves womens basketball, a tradition that has so much to be proud of, a student section that is engaged, to see all those things come together where our student-athletes get to experience that.
“They’ve bought into that vision and then they’ve done the work to make that a reality. It’s a wonderful place to play and I’m so happy for our kids.”
Now, the Falcons will get to play another WNIT game at the Stroh Center on Monday when the Gators arrive in BG.
“It’s awesome,” Fralick said. “A wonderful, continued opportunity and I want the community and the fans to continue to come out.
“I shared with my team today, because we talk a lot within our program, we have core values, about being a teammate, what it means to be a teammate, and basketball in my opinion is the ultimate team sport.
“And when you play in a way that demonstrates being a great teammate it multiplies. Then, the community becomes great teammates. And, when you are out in the community and you’re engaged, good things multiply.
“And I shared that with our team, continue to do the things that multiply goodness. Tonight, we saw that. We had a whole gym of great teammates cheering on the Falcons. We’re excited to have them again Monday night.”
Fralick added the Falcons demonstrated Thursday night how good Mid-American Conference basketball can be, and she hopes her team can continue doing that when Florida, a Southeastern Conference team, arrives on Monday.
“I think the MAC keeps showing that we are worthy of paying attention to,” Fralick said. “I think our league needs to show that. Toledo showed that in the NCAA tournament and we’ve been showing that in the WNIT.
“We’ve played real good teams. We come off the conference tournament and there is such a disappointment in that. That’s a real part of our journey, that’s a real part of our season, and we all had to take a deep breath and move through that together.”