BOWLING GREEN, OHIO – In a struggle between first-place teams in the Mid-American Conference, East Division leader Bowling Green State University was able to come away with an 83-71 victory over Eastern Michigan University.
The Falcons (16-4, 6-0 MAC), were able to force 24 EMU (14-4, 4-2) turnovers, and now sit alone atop of the MAC as they continue to shoot for their sixth straight conference title.
For Eagles’ coach AnnMarie Gilbert, a tough and hard fought loss to the Falcons didn’t come as much of a surprise.
“We have to tip our hats to Bowling Green; they are the best team in the Mid-American Conference. They came out really fired up and jumped on us early,” she said.
After a layup by Eagle guard Lindsey Mahone cut the lead to 14-10 with 13:25 left in the first half, BGSU went on a 27-12 run and headed to the locker room with a comfortable 41-22 lead.
EMU shot a woeful 28 percent in the first and turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 16 times, as it seemed the pressure of the big game and a packed house at Anderson Arena was too much for the young team to handle.
“You just can’t get down to a team of this magnitude and think you’re going to dig your way out of that type of hole,” Gilbert said. “Were a talented basketball team, but you can’t make the mistakes we made and not get exploited by a good basketball team.”
The Eagles, whose starting five are all underclassmen, found themselves consistently hounded by Falcon defenders and looking for an open teammate.
“We knew it was going to be a tough contest,” said guard Cassie Schrock, who finished with 17 points. “We knew they were in first and we knew we were coming to their place and that they had won five consecutive MAC championships.
“Our younger players haven’t played in a game like this and Bowling Green is a tough place to play. It’s loud, small, and it’s just a tough environment and they hadn’t experienced anything like that.”
Tavelyn James, who led all scorers with 22 points, did her best to get the Eagles back in the game with 12 second half points that saw the Eagles get within 15 points with just less than 14 minutes left.
But, BGSU proved to be too much as they had four different players in double figures and was one point away from having a fifth.
Junior guard Sydney Huntley provided a second half spark and finished with 11 points. The Eagles shot 57 percent in the second half and 44 percent for the game.
With more than half of the MAC schedule remaining, the Eagles know this is just a positive setback in their quest for the crown.
“This was eye opening for us. This is going to help us out and wake us up and let us know where we need to go from here,” said Schrock.
EMU will try to get back on the winning side as it travels to Athens, Ohio to take on the Bobcats of Ohio University on Wednesday.