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UT zones out in loss to Eastern Michigan

02/16/2014, 12:50am EST

Frustrated Rockets hit 26 percent of shots.

Toledo's Jonathan Williams, left, is stopped on his drive down the lane by Eastern Michigan's Darell Combs during the first half on Saturday.

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Yes, Eastern Michigan has a zone defense that’s tough to crack.

But the struggles of the University of Toledo men’s basketball team in its 65-44 loss Saturday had as much to do with the Rockets’ offensive struggles as anything the Eagles presented.

Toledo shot just 26 percent from the field for the game, easily its worst shooting effort of the season. The result was a season-low in points — by a whopping 23 points — and the team’s biggest margin of defeat all season.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the game.

“A big part of our loss was that we just didn’t make shots,” said UT guard Julius Brown, who finished with 13 points. “Those are the shots we usually make.”

“It is just so frustrating when we’re not making shots we can make. I think that affected our defense, so I would say it had a pretty big effect on us.”

Jonathan Williams also had 13 for the Rockets (21-4, 9-3 Mid-American Conference), who saw a three-game winning streak ended.

Mike Talley and Karrington Ward each scored 13 points to lead EMU (15-10, 7-5 MAC).

Eastern Michigan made four of its first five shots to lead 12-7 in the game’s first six minutes. But the Rockets responded with nine straight points to lead 16-12 with 11:10 on the clock.

From that point Toledo went nearly eight minutes without scoring, allowing the Eagles to score eight straight points and eventually take a 26-22 halftime lead.

“We certainly didn’t play very well, but I thought we played ‘frustrated,’” Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “We couldn’t make a shot, and you’re not going to beat a zone defense shooting 26 percent.

“I thought we ‘settled’ [for shots] early on.”

Offensively, things got worse for the Rockets in the second half. Justin Drummond’s two free throws were the only Toledo points in the first six minutes, and by that point Eastern Michigan had built a 35-24 lead with 13:50 on the clock.

Toledo would come no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

“In the first half we got frustrated at times, but in the second half we definitely were frustrated,” Kowalczyk said.

The Rockets made just 7-of-25 shots in the second half (28 percent), including just 5-of-16 on 3-pointers (31 percent).

“Their zone is good,” Kowalczyk said. “We had some good looks, but we just didn’t make them.”

It didn’t help that EMU was able to stifle the fast-break portion of Toledo’s offense, limiting the Rockets to just two fast-break points. And the Eagles’ 7-1 Da’Shonte Riley blocked seven shots and altered others as UT finished with just eight points in the paint.

Combined with 15 Toledo turnovers, the team’s third-highest total all season, and that 25.9 percent shooting mark, which was the worst percentage for the Rockets since Kowalczyk took over as coach in 2010-11, the result was UT’s lowest point total since scoring just 38 against the Eagles in 2012.

“We’ve been a tremendous zone team all year,” Kowalczyk said. “It happens.”

NOTES: The game marked the first time Toledo did not have three players score in double figures all season. Before Saturday’s game, the Rockets had at least four players in double digits in 20 of 24 contests. … Williams scored in double figures for the second straight game and third time in the last five contests.

Contact John Wagner at:, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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