The Bowling Green Falcons (30-4) have yet to lose a game inside the friendly confines of the Stroh Center this year (16-0) and will look to continue that mark tonight as they host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (25-9) in the NCAA Women’s NIT. The game will mark the first ever meeting between these two schools.
In their first year and only year as a member of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) before heading west into the Big 10 next season, the Scarlet Knights posted a 12-6 conference mark and parlayed that into an At-Large bid into the NIT Tournament. Thus far on their run in the NIT, Rutgers has wins over Delaware 65-61, Harvard 63-52 and in 2OT over Seton Hall 91-79.
Rutgers is led by 1st Team AAC forward Kahleah Copper who averages 16.2 points per game to go along with 6.2 rebounds per game for legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer, a Naismith Hall of Fame selection in 2001 who has amassed over 900 career wins.
Bowling Green enters the contest on the backs of a 3 game winning streak just like the Scarlet Knights, having defeated High Point 72-62, St. Bonaventure 76-65, and Michigan 63-53 all at home inside the friendly confines of the Stroh Center where they have a 44-7 mark in the 3 years here since transitioning from Anderson Arena.
For Bowling Green the key to beat Rutgers is rebounding. The Falcons will need to grab every missed shot and keep Betnijah Laney off the boards where she averages a team-high 8.9 rebounds per contest. Rutgets main key to the game will be controlling the tempo and not allowing the BGSU duo of guard Jillian Halfhill (13.3 ppg) and Alexis Rogers (team-high 14.4 ppg) from getting out in the open court and on their way to the rim.
The starting lineups for both teams:
BGSU (Coached by Jennifer Roos, 54-15 in her 2nd year at BG):
#1 – Jasmine Matthews – 5’9 Junior Guard from Matteson, Illinois averaging 6.5 ppg
#11 – Jillian Halfhill – 5’6 Senior Guard from Canfield, Ohio averaging 13.3 ppg
#21 – Erica Donovan – 5’11 Redshirt-Sophomore from Northside, Texas averaging 10.9 ppg
#32 – Alexis Rogers – 6’1 5th Year Senior from West Chester, Ohio averaging 14.4 ppg
#40 – Jill Stein – 6’2 Senior from Clyde, Ohio averaging 6.6 ppg.
For Rutgers (Coached by C. Vivian Stringer 926-341 in 42 years, 406-206 in 19 years at Rutgers)
#1 – Rachel Hollivay – 6’4 Sophomore Center from Columbus, Mississippi averaging 8.0 ppg
#2 – Kahleah Copper – 6’1 Sophomore Forward from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania averaging 16.2 ppg
#3 – Tyler Scaife – 5’9 Freshman Guard from Little Rock, Arkansas averaging 3.4 ppg
#15 – Syessence Davis – 5’7 Junior Guard from Neptune, New Jersey averaging 5.0 ppg
#44 – Betnijah Laney – 6’0 Junior Guard/Forward from Clayton, Delaware.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00pm, BG will be wearing their home white jerseys with the white shorts and orange trim and numbers while Rutgers will counter with their red jerseys, white numbers and trim as the visitors.
Stroh Center is about 3/4th full and seats approx 4,400 with most of the fans in attendance clad in orange and brown.
Bowling Green is doing a terrific job in both getting themselves to the rim as well as keeping Rutgers out on the perimeter and forcing the Scarlet Knights out of their game early as they lead 8-2 4 minutes into this quarterfinal.
8-4 BGSU at the first media timeout. 15:42 to go in the first half, Falcons will have the ball when play resumes.
The winner of tonight’s game will take on the South Florida University women’s team in the next couple of days at a site yet to be determined as the Bulls knocked off Mississippi State last night. The Bulls men’s team made a splash today as well as they hired away Kentucky assistant coach and former Globetrotter Orlando Antigua whose Wildcats will face off with Wisconsin in the Final 4 on Saturday.
The pressure inside from BGSU in the first 8 minutes of the game thus far on defense again has been suffocating as the looks on the players faces for Rutgers is that of frustration as they continue to miss shots from 5-8 feet on each of their last 4 possessions.
Already down to 11:37 in the first half with BG leading 12-6. Ottoville product Abby Siefker has checked into the game the first time for Bowling Green.
Curious to know the story behind the black eye that BG guard Deborah Hoekstra is sporting. If anyone knows please tweet me @michaelhirnpbp
Bowling Green over the past 8 minutes has really been sparked by the play of Senior Jillian Halfhill as she hit a running floater to give her team a then 18-15 lead, and a rebound to start a fast break the other way with resulted in a pair of missed free throws by Miriam Justinger.
A monster 3 from 2 feet behind the left arc by Jasmine Matthews gives BG a 23-17 lead and sends the capacity crowd into a frenzy. Falcons have the basketball and about 2 minutes left in the first half as another up and under by Jill Stein ups the lead to 25-17.
Two straight trips by Rutgers have resulted in an offensive foul as BG continues to pile on the points before losing the ball out of bounds much to the dismay of the orange and brown faithful.
As the two teams head into the locker room here at the Stroh Center I noticed that Rutgers starting center and their best shot blocker Betnijah Laney had one of her shoes off, a bag of ice in her hand and was walking gingerly to get it looked at.
BG leads at the break 25-21 over the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers has gone on an 11-4 run in the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half and currently lead 32-29…..however they just had one of their players and leading scorer in Copper go down hard. She is currently on the bench looking to try and get back into the game which is now 36-29 after BG has missed their last 2 shots from the field.
Next season when the Falcons take the court they will have a recruit from Findlay Liberty Benton to help their offensive woes in career 3 point leader Rachel Myers. Myers broke the schools all-time 3 point record this season that had previously been held by Ohio State University standout Cait Craft.
Bowling Green scores their first points in 8 shots as after a wild jump ball call with Halfhill trying to call a timeout for BG, Rutgers gets the ball off the scrum and hits another basket to run their lead to 40-31 with just 11:51 left in the game.
Crowd in attendance behind where we are sitting at midcourt has been VERY vocal and into the game all night long for Bowling Green.
Tune in for the remaining 10 minutes of play at http://wbgufm.com/player.html as BG trails 40-33 with 10:15 to play and Scaife for Rutgers at the line. 41-33 Scarlet Knights.
Offensive foul on BG draws major boos from the crowd here and 2 more points on the Scaife jumper. She has Rutgers last 3 points as they push their lead back to 10 at 43-33.
BG is on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 49-42 with 4:19 left in the game but the best play of the game came just moments ago as BG guard Jillian Halfhill hit a running right hand hook shot for 3 with 1 second left on the shot clock that banked in to cut it to a 3 point lead at the time at 45-42.
Dave Boninsegna (@zsportslive) of www.zsportslive.com makes a great point about a little thing that BG is not doing right now on their inbounding: “They are picking the ball up immediately, Rutgers is applying NO pressure in the backcourt, why not let it roll and pick it up to save time while you’re trailing?”
Both teams trade baskets and it’s not 53-50 Rutgers with 16.8 seconds left and Rutgers ball after the timeout.
Bowling Green gets the rebound off of a missed free throw by Copper, and rushes a 3 on the other side which misses. Rutgers gets fouled with 4.8 seconds left and nails a pair of free throws to secure the 55-50 win.
Alexis Rogers is the leading scorer in the game with 16 for BG, Copper falls one point short of her average and finishes with 14 as Rutgers ups their record to 26-9 overall and will play South Florida in the next round of the NIT this week. BG ends their season with their first loss inside the Stroh Center (16-1) and at 30-5 on the season.
Thank you for reading this and congrats to both teams on moving on and a spectacular season. #GoFalcons.