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Rockets exit early from NIT

03/20/2014, 12:40am EDT
By BLADE STAFF

UT falls short after 2nd-half rally

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Trailing by 15 points at halftime, the University of Toledo rallied to take the lead Wednesday night but could not hold on and fell 66-59 at Southern Mississippi.

The loss in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament ends UT’s season. The Rockets (27-7) set a program record for wins and earned a shared of the Mid-American Conference regular-season title.

UT began the second half on an 11-0 run and eventually took a 41-40 lead on a Rian Pearson transition lay up. The Rockets hit on nine of 11 shots to start the period.

Southern Miss (28-6) soon responded with six straight makes to go ahead 54-49.

The Golden Eagles, who improved to 15-0 at home, led the rest of the way.

Southern Miss, the third seed, advances to play at second-seed Missouri on Sunday.

Julius Brown led four double-digit Rocket scorers with 19 points. Justin Drummond and Pearson followed with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Nathan Boothe contributed 10 points and matched Drummond with a team-best seven rebounds.

Drummond’s dunk out of a timeout cut the deficit to 59-53 with 3:18 to go and snapped a five-plus minute drought without Toledo scoring a field goal.

Freshman Jordan Lauf, making his first start, fouled out with 5:12 to go, finishing with two points and a rebound.

J.D. Weatherspoon, who did not start for the first time this season, accounted for Toledo’s lone bench point.

The Rockets scored a season-low in points in the first half, heading to the break down 34-19. They shot just 7 of 25 in the period for 28 percent and were 1 of 9 from behind the arc.

Flummoxed by USM’s match up zone and full-court pressure, Toledo shot just 42 percent from the field and 4 of 22 from the 3-point line.

The Rockets were outrebounded 39-29.

Michael Craig led the Golden Eagles with 16 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.

He put his team in front 61-55 with 1:35 remaining on a lob dunk out of a timeout.

Tossing the pass from up top was former Rocket Neil Watson. Watson, who redshirted at Toledo in 2009-10 under then coach Gene Cross, finished with 12 points (eight in the first half). He made consecutive 3-pointers early for a 19-10 lead.

UT, making its eighth NIT appearance, fell to 3-8 in the tournament.

ILLINOIS 66, BOSTON U. 62

BOSTON — Rayvonte Rice scored seven straight points late in the game and finished with 28 to rally Illinois in an NIT game.

The second-seeded Illini fought back from a 30-13 first-half deficit. Rice made the key play with 2:07 left when his steal and three-point play trimmed it to 61-60. He added two free throws and a driving layup to give Illinois a 64-61 lead.

Dom Morris missed a contested layup on an inbounds play with 11 seconds left that would have tied it for BU, the regular-season champion in the Patriot League. Nnanna Egwu added two free throws to ice it for Illinois (20-14), which advanced to play No. 3 seed Clemson in the second round. Malcolm Hill had 10 points for the Illini.

It was the first meeting between Illinois and BU (24-11), which was seeking its first win in the NIT after five losses. D.J. Irving had 17 points for the seventh-seeded Terriers and point guard Maurice Watkins had seven points and 12 assists. Morris scored 10.

Iowa coach returns but team falls to Tennessee

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DAYTON — Jarnell Stokes dominated inside as Tennessee finally caught up in the closing minutes of regulation, and then opened overtime with a three-point play that got the Volunteers headed to a 78-65 victory over Iowa on Wednesday night in the NCAA's First Four.

The Volunteers' late comeback sent them Raleigh, N.C., where they'll play sixth-seeded Massachusetts on Friday in the Midwest Regional.

Tennessee (22-12) didn't lead until Antonio Barton's 3-pointer put the Vols up 59-57 with 3:05 left regulation.

There were five lead changes before the Vols' Jordan McRae missed a jumper missed at the buzzer, leaving it tied at 64.

Stokes' three-point play was the key moment in his 18-point, 13-rebound performance.

Iowa (21-13) managed only one free throw in overtime, ending a hectic and stressful day for coach Fran McCaffery.

McCaffery started the day in Iowa with his teenage son Patrick, who had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor. He flew back from Iowa City to Dayton on Wednesday night.

McCaffery said his son Patrick was in "good spirits" after the morning's operation. Doctors said tests will continue to determine further treatment for Patrick, who turns 14 today.

"The outpouring of support and encouragement Patrick and our family have received this past week has been overwhelming; words cannot express how genuinely thankful we are to everyone who has offered their thoughts and prayers," McCaffery said.

McCaffery, 54, is a Philadelphia native and a former standout at Penn.

He is in his fourth season at Iowa after head coaching stints at Siena and UNC-Greensboro. He also spent 11 seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame, where he met his wife Margaret, a former star basketball player for the Irish.

The McCafferys have three sons and a daughter.

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