Toledo guard Jonathan Williams battles Loyola forward Vlatko Granic for a rebound during the Rockets’ victory on Tuesday night at Savage Arena. Williams led UT with 24 points. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
In what University of Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk called his team’s most complete performance of the season, the Rockets used a 19-0 first-half run to get a comfortable lead and made clutch plays down the stretch to hold on for a 74-70 win over Loyola (Ill.) on Tuesday at Savage Arena.
“I think we’ve played some really good teams and played some really good basketball in stretches, but not for a whole game,” Kowalczyk said. “Tonight was our most complete game.”
Toledo (6-6) led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but saw its lead cut to 67-65 with 2:32 left in the game after a 3-pointer by Loyola’s Donte Ingram.
UT senior forward Steve Taylor, Jr., scored off an offensive rebound on the next possession to give UT a 69-65 lead.
IN PICTURES: UT 74, Loyola (Ill.) 70
Loyola (10-3) then answered with a spinning layup by Milton Doyle to cut the lead to 69-67 with 1:47 left in the game.
After Jordan Lauf grabbed an offensive rebound, Jaelan Sanford kicked the ball out to Jonathan Williams, who hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock was running down to give Toledo a 72-67 lead.
“Jaelan Sanford made the play,” Williams said of his late 3-pointer.
“I threw up a shot and I thought it was good, but give credit to Jaelan Sanford because he got into the lane and kicked it out. It was a great pass.”
Toledo would add two free throws by Sanford, and then Loyola’s Ingram hit a 3-pointer as time expired to make the score 74-70.
Williams led Toledo with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field.
“Jon Jon in the past has probably been a little bit too aggressive going to the rim and not always been in control,” Kowalczyk said. “Tonight he did it in a great way. He did not settle and he got to the basket. He changed speeds and just did a great job of just controlling his tempo. That was a big part of it.”
Lauf had 11 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double. Lauf grabbed four offensive rebounds, including two important ones down the stretch.
“It’s always been something that I’ve done,” Lauf said. “It’s kind of my role on this team to offensive rebound, and the opportunity was there tonight.”
Lauf had a put-back layup on an offensive rebound that stretched the UT lead to 67-60 with 3:12 left.
“It was just another possession where the ball came off the right way,” Lauf said. “I put myself in good position and got the rebound and was lucky enough to put it right back up.”
Sanford was also in double figures for Toledo with 11 points, and Taylor had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Aundre Jackson paced Loyola with 22 points, Ingram scored 14, Clayton Custer had 13 points, and Doyle scored 11.
After a back-and-forth opening five minutes, UT trailed 11-8. The Rockets then went on the decisive 19-0 run over the next 6:45 to take a 27-11 lead with 7:45 left in the opening half.
“I didn’t know we had a 19-0 run, to be honest with you,” Kowalczyk said. “As a coach, you really don’t keep track of that stuff. But we do keep track of shutouts [defensive stops], and I know we had 10 straight shutouts during one stretch. When you get 10 in a row that is impressive.”
Loyola would cut the lead to seven points in the first half, but the Rockets got a layup from Williams near the halftime buzzer and UT led 41-30 at halftime.
“I’m really proud of how we defended in that first half,” Kowalczyk said. “I thought we did a lot of good things in that first half. We were up by 11, and we knew they would make a run at us and they did. But we were able to stay together.”
Toledo has struggled at times this season to close out games, but in this one the Rockets were able to make the clutch plays when it mattered and withstood a comeback effort from Loyola.
“Executing down the stretch was big,” Williams said. “Down the stretch, we had some game-winning plays. The first one was when Jordan Lauf got that game-winning rebound and then when Jaelan Sanford kicked it out, that was a game-winning pass.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.
Toledo guard Jaelan Sanford puts up a shot against Loyola forward Aundre Jackson during the Rockets’ victory on Tuesday night at Savage Arena. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH