Visiting Rutgers University took the lead for good with a 15-0 run early in the second half, and the Scarlet Knights held on for a 55-50 win over the Bowling Green State University women's basketball team Monday night (March 31). The game, a quarterfinal-round matchup in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), was held at a raucous Stroh Center on the BGSU campus.
With the victory, RU improves to 26-9 on the year, and the Scarlet Knights advance to face South Florida in the semifinal round. The Falcons see one of the finest seasons in school history come to an end with a record of 30-5.
BGSU's win total was the second-highest in school -- and Mid-American Conference -- history. Only the Falcons' 2006-07 team won more games, going 31-4 en route to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Championships.
Monday's game marked the final collegiate contest for BGSU seniors Jillian Halfhill, Alexis Rogers and Jill Stein. The trio helped the Falcons to a total of 106 wins during their four years on the roster.
Rogers led all scorers with 16 points vs. the Scarlet Knights, adding eight rebounds in her final game. Redshirt sophomore Erica Donovan had 12 points, while Halfhill had 10, including an improbable three-point field goal in the second half.
Stein scored five points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds in her final game as a Falcon.
The loss was BGSU's first at home this season. The Falcons went 16-1 at the Stroh Center in 2013-14, setting a school record for home victories in a season.
BGSU took an eight-point lead, the Falcons' largest of the game, on Stein's layup late in the first half. But, the Scarlet Knights scored the last four points of the half to cut BG's lead to 25-21 at the intermission, then scored 15-straight points early in the second period to build a 40-29 lead with 12:38 to go.
The visitors' largest lead of the night was 12 points, when Tyler Scaife hit a transition layup with 8:23 remaining. But, the Falcons proceeded to go on a 9-0 run to cut the Rutgers lead to three points.
The home team could draw no closer, however. BG crept within three points on two more occasions, the last coming on a Rogers layup with 16.8 seconds left. The Falcons quickly committed two fouls -- BG's sixth and seventh fouls of the half, respectively -- and Kahleah Copper missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 14.8 seconds on the clock.
Stein rebounded that miss, and BG headed downcourt, but a three-point try by Donovan was off the mark, and Scaife grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 4.8 seconds left. She hit two free throws to clinch the victory.
The Scarlet Knights shot 60 percent from the field in the second period, going 15-of-25 after halftime. RU shot 44.6% from the floor for the game. The Falcons shot just 32.4% in the second half and 35.7% on the night.
Halfhill gave the Falcons an early lead, getting a driving layup try to drop just 15 seconds into the contest. Copper, who led three RU double-digit scorers with 14 points, answered on the next possession, but Rogers knocked down a three-point try, and found Jasmine Matthews alone under the hoop moments later, and the junior's layup gave the Falcons an 8-2 lead.
Rutgers got within three points, 9-6, on a Copper layup, but Halfhill doubled BG's advantage, slipping out to the right corner, taking a pass from Rogers and knocking down a long-range try for a 12-6 advantage with six minutes gone.
Following that Halfhill trey, however, BGSU would go a total of 5:17 without another point. Neither team scored for over three minutes after that triple, but the visitors eventually knocked the lid off the bucket at the East end of the Stroh Center, getting a jumper from Scaife and a turnaround hook shot from Ariel Butts. When Copper got a run-out layup after a BG miss, the game was tied at 12-all, and BGSU coach Jennifer Roos used a timeout.
Roos, the MAC and Russell Athletic/WBCA Region 4 Coach of the Year, has compiled a record of 54-16 in her first two seasons as a collegiate head coach.
The play Roos called out of the timeout worked to perfection, as Matthews dribbled right-to-left along the foul-line extended, and dished a nifty pass to Donovan, who was headed left-to-right on the baseline. Donovan's layup gave the Brown and Orange a 14-12 lead.
RU enjoyed an early rebounding advantage on Monday night, but Rogers grabbed the Falcons' first offensive board of the game at the 6:48 mark, laying the ball up and in for a 16-13 BG lead. That lead grew to five points on a pair of Donovan free throws just over 30 seconds later, and after Betnijah Laney hit a jumper, Halfhill got a runner in the lane to drop for a 20-15 Falcon lead.
Briyona Canty came up with a steal and layup to cut the BG lead to three points once again, but Donovan fed Matthews for a corner three, and the redshirt soph then hit Stein for a layup in traffic. The Falcons took a 25-17 lead as the crowd of 2,649 threatened to blow the roof off the Stroh Center.
RU answered, however, as Canty canned a jumper, and Alexis Burke got a layup to go down with just five seconds left in the half.
When the second half began, Copper cut the BG lead to just two points, but Rogers responded with an up-and-under layup for a 27-23 lead. Canty scored on the next possession, but Donovan's left-side jumper made it a 29-25 game with 17:20 to go.
But, the Falcons would not score for the next 5:10. BG came up empty on eight consecutive possessions. Meanwhile, Rutgers scored on five-straight trips down the floor and seven of the next nine possessions. When the smoke had cleared, the Scarlet Knights had a 15-0 run and a 40-29 lead.
Five different players scored between two and four points apiece during that run, which culminated with a Scaife jumper at the 12:38 mark. Finally, Donovan stopped that run with a layup off of aDeborah Hoekstra pass with 12:10 to go.
BG got within seven points, 40-33, on a Rogers jump-stop layup with 10:49 remaining. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights were beginning to get into some foul trouble, as Rachel Hollivay picked up her fourth foul with 11:21 left, and Laney got her third foul just 28 seconds later. Laney would draw her fourth foul with exactly nine minutes remaining.
That came after Scaife had hit a jumper for a 43-33 Rutgers lead, and she hit another shot, scoring in transition after a Canty steal. That Scaife layup made it a 12-point difference, the largest of the night, with 8:23 on the clock.
Slowly but surely, however, the Falcons cut into that lead. Rogers got to the line and hit a pair of shots out of the under-eight-minute media timeout, and Stein muscled up a layup less than a minute later. When sophomore Miriam Justinger banked a shot off the glass and in, the RU lead was just six points, 45-39, with 6:52 remaining, as the Scarlet Knights' legendary coach, C. Vivian Stringer, used a timeout.
Out of that timeout, though, Canty missed a jumper, Justinger grabbed the rebound, and anyone who saw the next possession might have thought the Falcons were hashtag-blessed by a higher power on this night.
BGSU used nearly every possible second of the shot clock on that possession, but with that clock winding down, Matthews three a high pass to Halfhill, stationed near the right corner. The senior leaped to catch that pass, took a quick dribble to her right and fired an overhead one-handed shot toward the hoop. The shot hit the backboard and dropped through the net, capping a 9-0 BG run, getting the Falcons within three points of the Knights, and unofficially breaking BGSU women's basketball decibel-level records during the Stroh Center Era.
Halfhill's shot cut the RU lead to 45-42 with 5:52 remaining, but the visitors, undaunted by the miracle shot or the high volume, answered with a bucket on the next possession. Syessence Davis hit a jumper for a five-point lead, and a steal by Canty led to a layup by Copper with 4:20 on the clock, giving RU a 49-42 edge.
Donovan put back her own miss, but Copper fed Hollivay for a layup. Another Donovan bucket, though, was followed by a BG defensive stop. Stein came up with the rebound with just over two minutes left, and Rogers got a driving layup to go with 1:47 remaining, cutting the RU lead to 51-48.
Rogers then deflected a Laney pass, and tied up Laney as both players dove to the ground. The possession arrow favored the Falcons with 1:17 to go.
A Matthews shot on the next possession, however, did not go down, and Hollivay rebounded the miss as the clocked ticked under one minute to go. After a Rutgers timeout, Laney knocked down a clutch jumper with 27.7 seconds left, giving her team a 53-48 lead.
Back came the Falcons, as Rogers hit a driving layup to make it a three-point game. BG used a timeout with 16.8 seconds left and setting up the aforementioned conclusion.
Scaife had 13 points and Canty 11 for the visitors, joining Copper in double digits. Hollivay pulled down nine rebounds and Laney eight, helping RU to a 38-34 advantage on the glass in the game. Hollivay also had four blocked shots on the night.
BG was 4-of-12 from three-point land on the night, led by a 2-for-3 effort by Halfhill. RU went 0-of-2 on the evening, marking the 14th time this season that the Scarlet Knights did not make a three-pointer in a game.
The Falcons' season ended just three hours before the month of March concluded. BGSU has won 20 games in each of the last 11 seasons, with seven seasons of over 25 wins during that time. That 11-year stretch also includes the only two 30-win seasons the MAC has ever seen.
Roos and her staff, assistant coaches Jesse Fleming, Jacey Brooks and Sahar Nusseibeh and director of operations Monique Rosati, lose three seniors off of the 2013-14 team. Rogers scored 1,257 points in just three playing seasons for the Falcons, adding 753 rebounds and 173 steals during that time.
Halfhill, after playing just 102 minutes and scoring a total of 25 points as a freshman, ended her career with a total of 932 points as a Falcon. She had 462 of those points this season, and added 266 career assists, including 260 over her final three seasons. Halfhill hit 127 career three-pointers, making 73 of them (and hitting over 42% of her long-range tries) as a senior.
Stein, like Halfhill, played sparingly as a freshman, with 30 points and 114 minutes played during the Falcons' final season of the Anderson Arena Era. But, she ended her career with over 500 points and 500 rebounds, including 298 boards (a BG-best average of 8.5 per game) this season.
Roos and her staff are slated to return nine players from this year's roster for the 2014-15 season, including Katrina Salinas. Salinas, who would have been a senior in '13-14, missed the entire season due to an injury suffered just days before the season opener.
Other players with eligibility remaining include Hoekstra and Matthews, who will be seniors next season; Donovan and Justinger, who will be juniors in 2014-15; and Rachel Konieczki and Abby Siefker, who will be sophomores next fall. Additionally, first-year Falcons Leah Bolton and Kennedy Kirkpatrick played a total of 24 minutes in 2013-14, and both are redshirt candidates.
BGSU now has a record of 7-6 in six appearances in the WNIT, including a 5-2 record during the Jennifer Roos head-coaching tenure.