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Similar Success

Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Updated: Thursday, February 11, 2010 06:02

In May 2001, Curt Miller took over a struggling Bowling Green women’s basketball program that finished the previous season with an 11-18 overall record. Miller entered this season with 179 total wins (fourth-most all-time in Mid-American Conference history) and recently garnered his 100th MAC victory. Nearly nine years later, to say that Miller has helped the Falcons soar to new heights not only would be hideously cliché, but also an extreme understatement.

BGSU has consistently improved each year during his tenure as head coach of the Falcons. In his third season, Miller led his team to the MAC Tournament Championship game. The following year, Miller and Co. hoisted the championship trophy of that same event while also capturing the first of five-straight MAC regular season titles. Miller has also won five-straight MAC Coach of the Year honors in that same span, a feat never before achieved in the conference.

The Falcons are coming off their best season under Miller, one in which they won 25 consecutive games (BGSU record) and finished the 2008-09 campaign with 29 total victories, the second-best total in MAC history. They were 29-5 overall with a 15-1 mark in conference play.

On Saturday at 2 p.m. in Savage Arena, our very own Rockets will host the Falcons in what is by far the biggest game on campus this year. Much like Miller, Toledo Head Coach Tricia Cullop has quickly made her mark on the program. In fact, Cullop is off to a better start than Miller, who was 9-19 in his first season at BGSU. In her first season at Toledo, Cullop led the Rockets to an 18-13 (11-5 MAC) overall record en route to earning MAC Co-Coach of the Year honors with Miller last year.

The Rockets have shown no signs of a sophomore slump under Cullop, currently sitting atop the MAC West Division at 16-4 (6-1 MAC), the second-best record in the conference only to Bowling Green (17-4, 7-0 MAC). Statistically, both squads are pretty even, which just makes this game all the more appealing.

The Falcons feature the MAC’s highest scoring offense (74.0 ppg), while the Rockets are third best in the same category at 71.2 ppg. Toledo ranks No. 1 and holds a slight edge over BGSU in field goal percentage (43.4 to 43.0) and assists (16.32 to 14.55), while the Falcons are first and the Rockets are second in three-point field goal percentage (37.4 to 35.4) and assist/turnover ratio (0.93 to 0.82).

Each team is also very deep and led by a pair of preseason All-MAC selections. For BGSU, it’s the junior tandem of guard Tracy Pontius and guard/forward Lauren Prochaska. Pontius is averaging 13.6 points and 3.2 assists this season, while Prochaska ranks as the fifth-best scorer (17.9 ppg) in the conference. Toledo features stars at the same spots in sophomore guard Naama Shafir and senior forward and co-captain Tanika Mays, who both will likely matchup with Pontius and Prochaska on gameday. Shafir is right behind Pontius in scoring (13.2 ppg) and leads the MAC in assists (6.53 apg), while Mays ranks ninth in the conference in scoring (14.8 ppg) and sixth in rebounding (7.5 rpg).

The bottom line on this game, folks, is that you can’t script this. Not only is it a rivalry game—arch-rivals, no less—but it’s at home with both teams and coaches are nearly mirror images of each other and it features the top two teams in the conference. If you’re a sports fan, this is one contest you don’t want to miss.

— Mike Bauman is the Assistant Sports Editor and a senior majoring in communication.

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