Senior Jillian Halfhill's layup with 6.6 seconds left gave the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team a 77-76 win at the University of Akron Saturday afternoon (March 8). The Mid-American Conference game was held at James A. Rhodes Arena.
With the win, the Falcons improve to 27-3 overall, and BGSU ends the regular season with a 17-1 MAC ledger. BG's win at Akron, coupled with a Central Michigan loss at Eastern Michigan on Saturday, gives the Falcons the outright league regular-season crown.
Senior Alexis Rogers had a monster game, with game-high totals of 23 points, 15 rebounds and seven steals. The steal total tied her career high, and the rebound total included nine at the offensive end.
Fellow senior Jill Stein had 12 points and seven boards, while sophomore Miriam Justinger scored 11 points, all in the second half. Justingers point total included a key three-point field goal in the late going, as well as three free throws in the final minute of play.
Hanna Luburgh had 20 points to pace four double-figure scorers for Akron. Anita Brown had 17 points off the bench, while Kacie Cassell and Katie Nunan scored 10 points apiece.
The Zips shot 50.9 percent from the field for the game, including 56.0% in the second half, while BGSU shot 36.5% on the afternoon. Akron outrebounded the Falcons by two, 36-34, but BG hit eight three-pointers to the Zips' five, and the visitors went 23-of-26 from the free-throw line (88.5%). UA hit 13-of-16 shots from the stripe.
Justinger scored all 11 of her points in the game's final six minutes, beginning with a free throw at the 5:52 mark that cut the Akron lead to 65-63. After a Rogers steal, Justinger converted a nifty left-side baseline drive, and the game was tied.
After Nunan hit a long two-pointer, though, the Zips led by two points heading into the final media timeout, and Cassell split a pair of free throws out of the break for a 68-65 UA lead with 3:41 to go.
On the next possession, the Falcons nearly threw the ball away, but Rogers saved the ball with a headlong dive under the basket, and Justinger grabbed it a split-second before an Akron player could arrive. Justinger drove and drew a foul on Carly Young, knocking down both free-throw tries at the 3:18 mark.
Cassell missed a layup, with Rogers rebounding. The ensuing possession saw the senior take a Justinger entry pass and hit a layup for a 69-68 BG lead, but the Zips came right back, as Luburgh's three-pointer gave the hosts a 71-69 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Back came the Falcons, as Halfhill drove the lane and kicked a pass to Justinger on the right side. The sophomore's rainbow three was on target, and the Falcons led, 72-71, with 1:51 on the clock.
Brown split a pair of free throws with 1:37 left, tying the game. She missed the second try, but the Zips kept possession after the Falcons dropped the rebound out of bounds. Luburgh made BG pay with a pull-up jumper for a 74-72 UA lead with 1:17 remaining.
The next possession saw Rogers miss a layup try, but the senior tied up an Akron player on the rebound, and the possession arrow was pointing in BG's direction with 1:03 left.
Justinger was fouled by Young on a three-point try -- Young's fifth foul of the game -- with 45.4 seconds to go. The sophomore hit all three resulting free-throw attempts, and the Falcons had a 75-74 lead.
On the next possession, Cassell was double-teamed in the frontcourt, and momentarily lost possession of the ball. The UA point guard was able to dive on it and call a timeout, Akron's last, with 28.4 seconds left.
After the timeout, the Zips' Luburgh was fouled by Justinger, with both teams in the double bonus. Luburgh hit both shots with 20.1 seconds remaining, and the hosts had a one-point lead.
BG did not call a timeout, instead inbounding and running the offense, and Halfhill scored on a right-side drive with 6.6 seconds to go. Akron, out of timeouts, raced upcourt, but the BG defense forced Cassell to take a contested shot, which fell short as the buzzer sounded.
The Falcons' next game will be against an opponent to be determined, in the semifinal round of the MAC Tournament. That game will begin at 12:00 p.m. on Friday (March 14) at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland.