BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green's bench scored 38 points as the men's basketball team led wire-to-wire for a 70-59 victory over Ball State Saturday afternoon. The game was played in front of 3,128 fans at the Stroh Center, the second-largest home attendance of the year.
The bench was sparked by moving Jordon Crawford to the bench. The senior point guard had started 45 consecutive games dating back to last year, but BGSU men's basketball coach Louis Orr chose to start Luke Kraus in his place. Crawford responded with a game-high 19 points and a season-high eight assists in 33 minutes.
That's not to say Crawford was the lone factor among the non-starters. James Erger scored a career-high nine points and added four rebounds in 13 minutes. Richaun Holmes, after picking up two quick fouls and being a non-factor in the first half, finished with six points and five rebounds. Craig Sealey tied his season-high with 19 energetic minutes, posting four points and two rebounds.
The starting unit, though, also produced and the Falcons jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back. Kraus and Chauncey Orr hit early three-pointers and the Falcons never led by less than four points for the remainder of the game.
Erger had a lay-up and Sealey followed by going coast-to-coast for a thunderous dunk that gave the Falcons a 20-10 lead. Bowling Green pushed the lead to 11 late in the first half on jumpers from Crawford and Sealey, but Ball State answered. A Jesse Berry three-pointer was followed by a Chris Bond free-throw with 43 seconds left and the Cardinals were down just seven.
But Bowling Green closed the half in fine fashion as Crawford made a jumper, followed by an Orr steal that concluded in a Sealey lay-up with eight seconds left. Crawford then stole the inbounds pass and finished a lay-up as the horn sounded for a 41-28 halftime lead.
As has happened on numerous occasions lately, the Falcons struggled out of the locker room in the second half. Ball State cut the deficit to four on a Jauwan Scaife three-pointer with 11:54 to play but Bowling Green answered again.
Orr's jumper ignited a 10-2 run and A'uston Calhoun's lay-up with 8:06 to go gave Bowling Green a 59-47 lead. Ball State never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
While the bench played a huge role, the Bowling Green starting five was also strong. Calhoun ended with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with six rebounds and two steals. Orr posted his fourth double-digit scoring effort in the past five games with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Kraus had five assists and a career-best five steals as the Falcons posted a season-high 13 steals on 15 Ball State turnovers.
Bowling Green's play on the boards was another factor. The Falcons had been outrebounded each of the last five games and Ball State entered the contest with a MAC-best +9.3 rebounding edge in conference games. BGSU held Ball State to just five offensive rebounds and the Falcons won the rebounding battle 30-26 to improve to 6-1 on the season when outrebounding an opponent.
That physical play inside also translated to offensive efficiency. Bowling Green scored 38 points in the paint and shot a season-best 57.7 percent from the floor despite making just 2-of-12 three-pointers. Ball State stayed close by connecting on 7-of-16 three-pointers for the game but could not overcome the Falcons' efficient offensive play.
With the loss, Ball State falls to 8-12 overall and 2-6 in MAC play. Bowling Green improves to 8-13 overall and 3-5 in the conference. The Falcons will hit the road Wednesday to play at Northern Illinois at 8 p.m.