By ANDY WOLF
BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University served up a 63-52 loss to Michigan to begin the regular season for each team.
On Thursday night, the Falcons took advantage of the opportunity to end the Wolverines’ season, shooting 55 percent from the field and beating back a second-half Michigan surge in a 63-53 victory in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at the Stroh Center.
“I wanted to tell everybody, yes, every team gets better, but I think we’ve gotten a lot better as a team,” BGSU coach Jennifer Roos said. “Anytime you have a really unselfish and smart team, those two X-factors will carry you at the end of the season.”
The Falcons advance to face Rutgers (25-9) in the WNIT quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Monday at the Stroh Center.
The win also gives the Falcons a record of 30-4 overall, making them the second Mid-American Conference team to hit the 30-win mark.
The 2006-07 BGSU team finished 31-4, setting the MAC women’s record for most team wins in a season. That team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
“Our seniors, especially, put together a good game,” BGSU senior point guard Jillian Halfhill said. “It feels good to be playing well again, and the whole team is coming together.”
Senior Alexis Rogers scorched the nets for 20 points, hitting all four of her free throws, both 3-point tries and missing just one of her eight field goal attempts.
Halfhill totaled 18 points while shooting 4-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc, while fellow senior Jill Stein recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds and also dished out five assists. Junior Jasmine Matthews added 11 points.
“They were very motivated and fed off each other,” Roos said of her seniors. “When one did well, the other one stepped up. It was a three-headed monster.”
Rogers began the contest with a score as Stein found her cutting to the basket.
After the Wolverines put up five straight points, Halfhill collected a missed shot and scored from 3-point range.
Just over a minute later, Rogers buried a 3-ball, giving the Falcons their first lead at 8-5.
After Michigan went up 12-10, Halfhill converted a pair of free throws and buried another 3-pointer on consecutive possessions to put BGSU back on top.
From there, a 3-pointer by Rogers kicked off a 9-1 Bowling Green run to close the half with a 31-22 advantage.
The Falcons held the Wolverines to 31-percent shooting (9 for 29) in the first half.
The teams traded scores in the opening minutes of the second half until back-to-back corner 3-pointers by Halfhill and Jasmine Matthews gave the Falcons a 44-30 lead — their largest to that point.
“I thought if we made some extra passes, we were going to get some open shots,” Roos said. “When you have a double-post lineup like Michigan does, it really helps spreading the floor by knocking down those outside shots.”
Michigan scored on its next two possessions, but each score was answered by a lay-in by Rogers.
The Wolverines finally managed to get the deficit back down to a single digit, trailing 52-43 with 7:11 remaining, but it didn’t last long.
“We preached in the timeouts that we needed to get stops and scores,” Halfhill said. “Every time they scored, we had to slow the pace down and score at the end of the shot clock.”
The Falcons put together a nine unanswered points to take a 61-43 lead with just 3:06 to play.
That lead proved to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome, despite their 50-percent shooting (14 for 28) in the second half.
Nicole Elmblad led Michigan (20-14) with 15 points to go with seven rebounds, while Cyesha Goree added 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
The Falcons totaled 15 assists on the night, getting at least one assist from all eight players who took the court.
“Knowing we’re one step closer to where we want to be is huge,” Stein said. “It gives us momentum, as each game we’ve played better and better.”
Goree 5-2–12, Driscoll 1-1–3, Thompson 4-0–9, Smith 3-0–7, Elmblad 7-1–15, Ristovski 2-0–4, Rakers 1-0–3. TOTALS: 23-57 4-5 — 53.
bowling green (63)
Donovan 1-0–2, Rogers 7-4–20, Stein 5-0–10, Matthews 4-0–11, Halfhill 5-2–18, Hoekstra 0-0–0, Justinger 1-0″”2, Siefker 0-0–0. TOTALS: 24-43 6-7 — 63.
HALFTIME: Bowling Green, 31-22.
3-Point GOALS: Michigan 3-13 (Rakers, Smith, Thompson); Bowling Green 9-16 (Halfhill 4, Matthews 3, Rogers 2).
REBOUNDS: Michigan 27 (Goree 8); Bowling Green 28 (Stein 11).
TURNOVERS: Michigan 12; Bowling Green 15.
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