University of Toledo guard Jonathan Williams passes the ball against Detroit Mercy guard Chris Jenkins during the Rockets’ victory at Savage Arena on Wednesday. Williams had a career-high 29 points. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
The University of Toledo men’s basketball overcame a cold shooting first half and rallied in the second half to top Detroit Mercy 73-65 on Wednesday at Savage Arena.
The Rockets (4-5) got a challenge from the Titans (1-8), but a big run mid-second half helped Toledo get a much-needed win and snap a three-game losing skid.
IN PICTURES: Toledo men 73, Detroit Mercy 65
“Let’s be honest. This was a must-win game for us early in the season coming off an overtime loss,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said.
“I don’t think we played well, that’s for sure. I thought the way we started the game was awful. It was certainly good to get the win. A couple of bright spots were that we did the right things down the stretch.
“That’s what this team hasn’t always done. We’ve done it some games, but not every game.
“I thought we closed it out the right way by getting stops and getting the right shots.”
Jonathan Williams led the Toledo offensive effort with a career-high 29 points.
Jaelan Sanford scored 18, and Steve Taylor, Jr., had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought Jon-Jon was the only guy offensively that kept us in the game in the first half,” Kowalczyk said.
“I thought he attacked their zone well. And there were certainly some key 3's in the second half by Jaelan. Jaelan and Jon-Jon played well together, and I thought that was a bright spot.”
Chris Jenkins paced Detroit with 15 points, Josh McFolley scored 14, and Jarod Williams had 13 points.
Toledo trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half after a breakaway dunk by Jenkins made the score 44-33 with 16:35 left in the game.
But Toledo closed the game on a 40-21 run from that point on, keyed by defensive stops and some timely 3-point shooting.
“It was a must win,” Jonathan Williams said.
“We had to get stops. We know that defense is always going to win games. We know our offense is going to score points, but our main thing is just to get stops down the stretch.”
Detroit led 30-21 after a Jarod Williams layup with 3:04 left in the first half. Toledo then closed the half on a 6-0 run to cut the Detroit lead to three points at the break (30-27).
“We coach it, preach it, teach it, and emphasize it in practice, closing out the half,” Kowalczyk said. “We do end of the half scrimmages a ton. ... I thought the close of the half was huge and we had momentum, which I think was really important.”
The Rockets shot just 30 percent from the field in the first half and made just 1-of-8 shots from the 3-point line.
Williams had 14 of the Rockets’ 27 points in the first half, and said he made an effort to attack the basket early in the game.
“Shots weren’t falling early on,” Williams said. “So as a shooter, as a scorer, I tried get going by going to the basket. That creates opportunities a lot of times.”
Toledo was desperate for a win after dropping three straight games and four of its past five before this game, including a tough overtime loss to Green Bay on Saturday.
“I think this was a very good win,” Williams said. “We came to practice after having three straight losses and just stayed together and worked harder in practice. Our backs were against the wall and we executed tonight.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.
University of Toledo forward Luke Knapke knocks over Detroit Mercy forward Jaleel Hogan during the Rockets’ win on Wednesday. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH