The MAC Report, Presented By SportsTime Ohio

By Dave DeNatale

Please allow a BGSU alum one sentence to type something I didn’t think I’d be typing this season:

The Bowling Green Falcons are in first place in the MAC East at the quarter-pole of the season.

Understand that in addition to my work here for ESPN Cleveland, I do the studio show for the BGSU Radio Network.  So I’ve seen this team play and, yes, I’m a little biased.  I first saw this team play back on Thanksgiving weekend, when I called the play-by-play of the Falcons against Niagara, BG looked anything but a team to be taken seriously this year.  They were lost offensively and shooting in the 30-40% range from the field.  They couldn’t play man-to-man defense with any consistency.  The Falcons wobbled to a 1-8 start and didn’t appear to be going anywhere but the bottom of the standings.

But then, just as fast as you can say, Forward Falcons, Head Coach Louis Orr’s team turned themselves around.  BG started employing a suffocating zone defense and adjusted some of the personnel groupings to generate some offense and suddenly the Falcons have been a team to be reckoned with.  They’ve recorded road wins against St. Louis and Buffalo, and home victories against Miami, and most recently Ohio.  The Falcons are 3-1 so far in MAC play and are getting more confidence by the game.

Here’s what I like about BG:  you never know who will come up big on a given night.  Oh, Scott Thomas continues to play like a preseason All-MAC selection as he is averaging ten points and seven boards a game.  But Jordon Crawford is fast developing into a superb point guard and seems to have found a new best friend in JUCO transfer Torian Ogelsby, who has been dazzling in the open court with monster dunks.  A’uston Calhoun, Cam Black, and Dee Brown all have turned in key performances as well as this stretch of six wins in seven games.

By the by, one other tip of the cap in this blog goes to a gentleman by the name of William Frack.  Mr. Frack is a life-long fan of BGSU basketball and on Wednesday it was announced that he is providing a $10 million dollar endowment for the program.  The trust is the largest, single private gift in BGSU’s history. It is also the largest one-time gift ever designated to a Mid-American Conference basketball program.

Quick Hits:

–This has been a good of a freshman class as we’ve seen in the MAC in a while.  Some of the best first-year players can be found in the West Division as Jesse Berry, Trey Zeigler, and Matt Stainbrook.  Berry is fitting right in with a loaded Ball State team and scored 15 points in 15 minutes in the win over Western Michigan.  The Broncos meanwhile, are getting solid production from Bay Village (St Ed’s) product Stainbrook, who already has four double-doubles.  Zeigler became the first Central Michigan freshman in 12 years to score 30 points in a win over Toledo last week, and is scoring 24 points per game in conference action.

–Nice to see Toledo get their first win on Wednesday night as the Rockets routed Western Michigan at Savage Arena.  Sophomore guard Malcolm Griffin is emerging into a very nice player for UT, scoring 22 in the win over the Broncos and putting 30 on the board in a loss to Northern Illinois.

–I know it’s early, but Saturday’s SportsTime Ohio matchup between the Akron Zips and the above-mentioned BG Falcons looks like an awfully important game in the MAC East.  The Zips took care of Kent State on opening night of MAC action, then proceeded to lose against Ohio, Buffalo, and Miami.  Michael Reghi has said this on the air, and I agree….the MAC East champion might have a record of 10-6.  But if you’re Keith Dambrot and Akron, there’s no way you want to finish up the first round of divisional play at 1-4, with two home losses.  You win this conference by protecting your home court and stealing a couple on the road.

So that sets the stage for the Falcons at the ZIps on Saturday night on STO. It should be a lot of fun.  Here’s the key: often in games, BGSU gets off to slow starts and find themselves having to claw back into it from behind.  Can Akron get out to an early lead, get the crowd at Rhodes Arena fired up, and come up with a win that could help re-define their season?  Or will BG continue on this terrific run and stay atop the East.  Michael Reghi and Steve Mix bring you all the action starting at 7:30.  I hope you’ll tune in for what promises to be a great matchup.

Reg and Steve will stay in the MAC East on Sunday for Miami at Kent State.  The Redhawks, like Bowling Green, are off to a 3-1 start in conference play thus far.  Kent has been a kind of Jekyll and Hyde team in their first four MAC games, with impressive wins against Bowling Green and Ohio, but then a blowout loss at Buffalo.  The Golden Flashes have gotten superb play from Justin Greene, who is the only player in the MAC to be in the top five in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.  Don’t miss Miami and Kent at 2 PM Sunday on STO.

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