BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Bowling Green State University women's basketball team fought off every challenge by the University at Buffalo, coming away with a 61-56 win Thursday night (Feb. 7). The Mid-American Conference game was held at UB's Alumni Arena.
With the win, the Falcons improve to 15-7 overall and 6-3 in the MAC. BGSU is tied for first place in the East Division with Akron and Miami. The Bulls drop to 7-15 and 5-4, respectively, and UB is a game behind the leaders.
Senior Chrissy Steffen led the Falcons with 14 points, and five other players scored between seven and nine points for the Brown and Orange.
Redshirt junior Alexis Rogers and true junior Jill Stein had nine points apiece, with Rogers adding eight rebounds and a game-high five steals. The Falcons had a 39-36 rebounding edge, and BG's defense came up with 15 steals on the night.
Freshman Miriam Justinger scored eight points, while junior Jillian Halfhill had seven points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. Halfhill tied for game honors in both rebounding and assists.
Senior Danielle Havel had seven points and eight boards, while freshman Bailey Cairnduff scored five points. Cairnduff hit the game-clinching free throws, making both ends of a one-and-one opportunity with just 3.4 seconds to go.
Mackenzie Loesing led all players with 20 points for the Bulls, and she tied Halfhill for game honors with nine rebounds.
The Falcons never trailed, and the game was tied just once, at 2-2. Halfhill's steal on the opening possession of the game resulted in an easy layup by Steffen. After Loesing countered with a layup, a Rogers putback at the 18:53 mark gave the Brown and Orange the lead for good.
BGSU's lead grew to seven points after Rogers kicked the ball out to Havel for a three-pointer and Halfhill hit a runner off glass. Loesing's three-ball cut the Falcons' lead to 9-5, but Steffen took a pass from Justinger and knocked down a trey from the right corner at the 16:49 mark. She was fouled on the play, and hit a free throw for her second four-point play in as many games. The Falcons had a 13-5 lead.
Loesing, however, answered for the home team, hitting a corner three, then converting a layup to cut BG's lead to 15-10. Loseing had each of UB's first 10 points.
Moments later, though, a Rogers steal led to a Cairnduff three-pointer and a 19-10 BG advantage with 12:29 to go before halftime. Another steal, this time by Havel, resulted in a two-on-one, and Halfhill fed Havel for a layup and a 21-10 lead as UB used a timeout.
The Bulls battled back to within six points, as Kristen Sharkey's layup was followed by a Loesing three-pointer. Loesing made each of her first three long-range tries in the game, and the Falcons led by just a 23-17 score.
Justinger answered with a three of her own, off of Steffen's 'extra' pass, and a Rogers layup at the 5:23 mark gave the Brown and Orange a 28-19 lead with 5:23 to go in the half.
Loesing countered with a quick layup off an inbounds pass, but another steal and transition layup by Steffen gave the Falcons a 30-21 lead with under three minutes to go before the half.
Thornton hit a jumper, but Steffen came back with a three-pointer with just over a minute left in the half, for a 33-23 BG lead. UB hit a pair of free throws, but Rogers hit a layup while being fouled with just 11.6 seconds left in the half.
Rogers' ensuing free throw gave the Falcons an 11-point lead, but Karin Moss knocked down a three-pointer as the horn sounded, cutting BG's lead to 36-28 at the intermission.
After closing the first-half scoring, Moss opened the second-half scoring, with a steal and layup one minute in. Christa Baccas grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in off glass, and BG's lead was just 36-32.
Then, Thornton's free throws cut the Bulls' deficit to just two points with 16:50 left. Stein hit a free throw for BG's first point of the second half, with 15:36 to go, but Loesing's layup shaved the Falcons' lead to a single point.
Stein answered with an offensive board and layup, and Halfhill fed Steffen for a corner three and a 42-36 lead. Steffen then found Justinger for a layup and an eight-point lead with 12:32 left.
Moss answered with a deep three-pointer, though, and a Thornton layup made it a three-point game. But, Havel found Stein inside for a layup, and Stein then came up with a steal and drew the fourth foul on Thornton with 9:49 on the clock.
Less than two minutes later, Halfhill drove the lane and drew Sharkey's fourth foul of the night. The BG junior hit a pair of free throws for a 48-42 lead. Loesing made three free throws, but Stein's layup put BG up by five with just over five minutes to go. That layup, which came off a Justinger pass late in the shot clock, gave the visitors a 50-45 lead.
After a steal by Justinger, a Stein layup gave the Brown and Orange a seven-point advantage, and Justinger then took a pass from Halfhill and hit a transition bucket for a 54-45 lead with 3:34 remaining.
Thornton answered with a three-ball, and after a BG miss, a Baccas layup cut the Falcons' lead to 54-50 with 2:48 left. Halfhill hit a floater in the lane, but Sharkey's layup made it 56-52 with 2:09 to go.
The Falcons missed a shot on the ensuing possession, and the ball went out of bounds to UB with 1:34 remaining. Thornton was fouled -- BG's 10th foul of the half -- and hit the second of her two free-throw tries with 1:13 left, cutting BG's lead to three.
On the next possession, the Falcons turned the ball over, but Loesing missed a layup with half a minute left. Havel rebounded the ball and was fouled. The redshirt junior made two tosses for a 58-53 lead with 27.0 seconds left.
Thornton misfired on a three-point try, and Stein boarded the ball and passed it to Halfhill, who was fouled with 17 seconds left. Halfhill hit her first free throw, but missed the second, making BG's lead 59-53.
Baccas responded with a three-pointer with 5.8 seconds left, and the Bulls took a timeout. After the break, BG inbounded the ball, and Cairnduff was fouled with just 3.4 seconds remaining. She made a pair of free throws to clinch the victory.
Thornton scored 14 points off the bench for UB, while Baccas had seven points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots.
The Falcons shot 36.1 percent from the field, but went just 8-of-28 (28.6%) from the floor in the second half. UT shot 38.8% from the floor on the night.
UB hit seven three-pointers to BG's six, and both teams hit 11 free throws in the contest. The Falcons had 16 offensive rebounds, and BGSU had an 18-7 advantage in second-chance points.
The Falcons have a quick turnaround before hitting the road again. BGSU heads to Kalamazoo, Mich., for a Sunday (Feb. 10) afternoon game against Western Michigan University, with tipoff set for 2:00 p.m.