CLEVELAND (AP) — Dylan Frye scored 25 points, Justin Turner made a big late steal and Bowling Green hung on beat Northern Illinois 71-67 in the semifinals Friday night to advance to its first Mid-American Conference championship in 17 years.
The third-seeded Falcons (22-11) blew a 23-point halftime lead but pulled it together in the final minutes and earned a shot at top-seeded and No. 18 Buffalo in Saturday’s title game for an NCAA bid.
Bowling Green was one of just three teams to beat Buffalo this season, handing the Bulls a 92-88 loss on Feb. 1. Buffalo, which is seeking its fourth title in five years, returned the favor on March 8 with an 84-73 win.
Eugene German scored 31 points and the junior fueled a strong comeback by Northern Illinois, which tied it in the second half at 56-all but never took the lead.
After Turner hit a runner in the lane, the sophomore guard swiped a Northern Illinois pass, dribbled down the floor and fed Frye, who dropped a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Falcons a 65-58 lead.
Tayler Bradley’s 3-pointer pulled the Huskies within 68-65, but Frye made three free throws in the final 19 seconds to close it out.
Bradley added 16 points for the Huskies (17-17), who have not been to the MAC final since 1982.
Bowling Green did everything right in the first half while opening a 46-23 halftime lead. It appeared the Falcons would coast into the championship, but the lightning quick German and the Huskies had other ideas.
They started making shots, turned up their defensive intensity, and with German scoring on several twisting layups, Northern Illinois closed within 56-51 with 8:31 left.
The Huskies finally caught Bowling Green when center Noah McCarty drilled a 3-pointer from the left side before turning and staring down some fans seated courtside.