BOWLING GREEN, Ohio After a less than glorious performance by the Wolverines” leadership in last Friday”s loss to Western Michigan, sophomore Bernard Robinson and junior LaVell Blanchard needed an immediate opportunity to prove their worth as on-court leaders. The opportunity came last night in Bowling Green.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the guys who were expected to step up failed to do so adequately.
In the first half, Robinson led Michigan with four rebounds, two assists and two steals, and complemented Blanchard”s nine points with six of his own. But as the production of the Wolverines” dynamic duo trailed off in the second half, so too did Michigan”s.
Blanchard had 17 points and five rebounds in the game, but had a game-high six turnovers. Robinson turned the ball over four times himself, and scored just three points in the second half.
“There”s no question that our key guys have to take care of the basketball,” Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said.
What was perhaps most discouraging was that both Blanchard and Robinson were in positions last night to make important shots. The highlight for Blanchard was a bank off the glass with less than six minutes remaining that retook the lead for Michigan a lead it had relinquished just three minutes into the second half after going into the break ahead by four.
With the Falcons leading by two with 1:19 to play, Michigan took a 30-second timeout. Coming out of the huddle, Robinson missed a mid-range jumper that was destined to find the bottom of the net, but ultimately did not. It was followed immediately by a Keith McLeod basket for Bowling Green that teased as if it wanted to rim out, but fell and gave the Falcons a five-point lead with less than 30 seconds left.
It was not missed shots, but the number of turnovers that plagued the Michigan offense.
“They played great defense,” Blanchard said. “I”m working hard to get in this offense. I had six turnovers? That”s bad. I need to improve on that.”
Orange Crush: Bowling Green”s Anderson Arena must have seemed like a strange land to the Wolverines. A capacity crowd of just under 5,000 donned overwhelmingly in Falcon orange roared early and often during last night”s game to create an intense and intimate atmosphere that made Crisler Arena look like the UGLi on a Friday night.
“It certainly was a very difficult place for us to play,” Amaker said. “It”s my first time here and I hope I don”t have to return. It”s an outstanding environment for college basketball.”
No Big Ten team has won in the building in 31 years, since Iowa knocked off the Falcons, 89-78, in December of 1970. Two Big Ten teams visited Bowling Green in the 1990s. But neither Michigan State in 1990 nor Penn State in 1993 could overcome the Falcons in Anderson Arena.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Falcons” fans rushed the court, like a sea of Tropicana flooding the arena.
“They deserved to do that,” Amaker said. “I thought their fans really did a fabulous job of helping their team win, no question about it.”
Despite all my rage: Following the defeat, a dejected (and ejected, with five fouls) Bernard Robinson put his fist through the glass door of a fire extinguisher. His hand was cut and bloody, but he is reportedly fine.