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Rockets men avoid collapse at home

11/16/2016, 12:33am EST

UT outlasts Youngstown State in overtime after leading by 17 at one point

The University of Toledo men’s basketball team saw a big second-half lead vanish in a late-game collapse, but managed to escape with a 103-98 overtime win Tuesday night against  Youngstown State at Savage Arena.

Toledo led by as many as 21 points in the second half, but a Cameron Morse 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left capped a furious late rally by Youngstown State to tie the score at 87 and force overtime.

“That’s certainly not the way we drew up the last eight minutes of the game,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “When you are up 16 at halftime and 16 for a good stretch of the second half, I kept telling our players ‘Don’t play with this team.’ This team beat Akron soundly and can really score and they can score in bunches really quickly. And you obviously saw that tonight. We let them back in the game and we let them have confidence.”

In overtime, the teams traded baskets and leads before Youngstown State took a 98-97 lead on a layup by Brett Frantz with 1:06 left.

IN PICTURES: Toledo 103, Youngstown State 98

UT senior guard Jonathan Williams responded with two free throws to give UT a 99-98 lead. Morse then missed a 3 and the Rockets grabbed the rebound.

After a frantic sequence, Toledo pulled the ball back out and ran the clock down. Daniel Dzierzawski then finished a layup and the foul, but missed the free throw, giving UT a 101-98 lead.

Morse missed a desperation 3 and Williams sank two free throws to ice the game.

“It shows that our togetherness and toughness is where it needs to be,” senior guard Jonathan Williams said of pulling out the game in overtime. “As long as we can grind out the games when we are playing bad, we will be fine.”

Senior Marquette transfer Steve Taylor, Jr., scored 22 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in a dominant performance in his first home game for Toledo. The 23 rebounds are tied for the seventh most in program history and are the most for a UT player in the past 24 years.

“I just felt like I had to bring everything I had to help us win,” Taylor said. “Rebounding is one of my specialties, so I just gave it all I had on the glass.”

Williams made four 3s on his way to a team-high 25 points. Dzierzawski had 17 points and Jordan Lauf added 13.

Morse scored 40 points on 17-of-35 shooting from the field to pace Youngstown State (1-1) and lead the comeback effort.

“He averaged 25 a game last year for the second half of the season,” Kowalczyk said of Morse. “He can really score and he hit some unbelievable shots. Seventeen-of-35 is a lot of shots.”

Youngstown State used a 14-2 run in the second half to cut the Toledo lead to six points at 74-68 with 4:42 left in the game.

The Penguins then would cut the Toledo lead to 82-78 with 52.2 seconds left in the game, but a three-point play by Williams gave UT an 85-78 edge with 27.2 seconds remaining.

Morse then answered with a 3 of his own to bring the Rockets’ lead back down to four points at 85-81.

UT’s Jaelan Sanford hit one of two free throws to make it 86-81, but Latin Davis hit a 3 to cut the Toledo lead to 86-84.

Sanford again made one of two free throws and Morse followed with an improbable 3 from way beyond the line.

“We just got a little complacent,” Williams said. “We came out with great energy and we didn’t start the second half with the same energy that we had in the first half and it cost us. Our second half focus wasn’t where it needed to be.”

The Rockets started the game fast with a Zach Garber dunk to open the scoring and extended the lead to 10-0 after five quick points from Lauf and a Williams 3-pointer.

Youngstown State did not score until after the four minute mark of the opening half, when Matt Donlan hit a 3-pointer.

Toledo led by as many as 17 points in the first half and took a 43-27 lead into halftime. Youngstown State shot just 30.6 percent in the first half, while Toledo was 50 percent from the field in the first half.

Williams hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half and Taylor followed with a layup to quickly stretch the UT lead to 21 points at 48-27.

The Rockets evened their record at 1-1 after a season-opening loss at St. Joseph’s on Saturday.

“The bottom line is that we walked out of here and we got a win,” Kowalczyk said. “It may not have been as pretty as we would have liked. It was pretty for 30 minutes. Very, very sound for 30 minutes and then we just kind of got away from that for a little bit.”

Contact Brian Buckey at: or 419-724-6110.

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University of Toledo forward Steve Taylor Jr. (23) drives to the basket against Youngstown State. He scored 22 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in a dominant performance. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

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Tag(s): College  Toledo