Falcons prepare for WNIT matchup with Gators


The Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team has advanced to the fourth round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for just the second time in school history.

BGSU coach Robyn Fralick and the 30-6 Falcons, the Mid-American Conference’s automatic qualifier to the WNIT, will face the University of Florida (19-14) in the WNIT’s Great 8 on Monday with tipoff set for 6 p.m. at the Stroh Center.

The BGSU-Florida winner will advance to the Fab 4 of the WNIT, and will face either Harvard or Columbia, with the date, time and location of that game to be determined.

In each of the WNIT’s first three rounds, the Falcons’ game featured the two teams with the highest combined win total in that round.

BGSU opened the tourney with an 87-80 win over Liberty on March 16 at the Stroh. Entering that game, the two teams had combined for 51 wins on the season, the highest total among any of the WNIT’s 32 first-round matchups.

BGSU and Green Bay – the only two teams in the 64-team field with as many as 27 wins entering the WNIT – went into last Monday’s game with a combined total of 56 victories, easily the highest total in any of the 16 second-round matchups.

BGSU and Memphis had combined for 51 victories this year heading into Thursday’s Falcon win over the Tigers. And, the trend continues, as BGSU and Florida have combined for 49 victories this year. The highest total of combined wins in any of the other three Great 8 games is 46.

The Gators went 5-11 in Southeastern Conference play. UF opened the WNIT with a three-point win over Wofford, before going on the road and posting double-digit victories over both Wake Forest and Clemson. The Gators have won five of the last six games.

Individually, K.K. Deans has 14.2 ppg to pace three double-digit scorers, while Nina Rickards and Leilani Correa have 12.4 and 11.5 ppg, respectively. Deans has hit a team-leading 74 three-point field goals and also paces the Gators with 3.61 apg.

Coach Kelly Rae Finley’s team is 11-5 at home, 6-7 on the road and 2-2 in neutral-site games this season. In conference play, the Gators went 3-5 at home and 2-6 on the road.

Finley is in her second season at the Florida helm after guiding the Gators to records of 21-11 overall and 10-6 in SEC action in 2021-22.

Monday night marks the first WNIT meeting between BGSU and Florida, but it will be the Gators’ fourth national postseason game in Bowling Green. Florida’s first-ever NCAA Tournament game was a 69-67 victory over the Falcons at Anderson Arena on March 17, 1993.

As a rseult, the Falcons trail Florida, 1-0, in the all-time series. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1993, Florida’s LaTonya Davis hit a jumper with three seconds left to give the visitors the win before a crowd of 4,408 at venerable Anderson Arena.

Lori Albers led the Falcons with 23 points before suffering an injury in the second half.

Then, in 2012, the Stroh Center hosted NCAA Championships first- and second-round games. Florida defeated Ohio State before falling to eventual national champion Baylor in the second round.

Amanda Butler played for UF in that 1993 game and was Florida’s head coach in 2012. Butler is now the head coach at Clemson, and the 2022-23 Gators beat the Tigers on Thursday in the WNIT’s Super 16.

BGSU is appearing in the postseason WNIT for the eighth time in program history, and the second time in three years. The Falcons enter the Florida game with an all-time record of 11-8 in the tourney.

The Falcons are 9-5 in home WNIT games through the years, including a 2-2 mark at venerable Anderson Arena and a 7-3 record at the Stroh Center. BGSU advanced to the third round of the 2013 tournament and the fourth round of the 2014 WNIT, losing to the eventual champion each season (Drexel in 2013; Rutgers in ‘14).

BGSU is 1-1 in road games following last week’s win at Green Bay, and the Falcons are 1-2 in neutral-site contests in WNIT play over the years.

The Falcons went 19-42 overall and 5-31 in MAC play in Fralick’s first two seasons at the helm, as she and her staff were recruiting the bulk of the current team and implementing their culture and style of play.

It’s safe to say that Fralick and her staff were successful. Over the last two-plus years, the Falcons are 68-30 overall and 38-18 in league regular-season action. BGSU has qualified for national postseason play in each of the last three seasons.

The Falcons’ 73-60 win over Memphis on Thursday night was BGSU’s 30th victory of the season. BGSU has won 30 games for the first time since the 2013-14 team went 30-5. The 2013-14 squad – like this year’s club – won three WNIT games, topping High Point, St. Bonaventure and Michigan at the Stroh Center.

The current team is the 12th in program history to win at least 25 contests, and the first since 2013-14. BGSU reached 27 wins for the ninth time in program history. All 11 of the other MAC schools have combined for just 10 such seasons.

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