KALAMAZOO, Mich. — University Arena was once again a house of horrors for the University of Toledo men’s basketball team on Tuesday night.
Toledo saw its five-game winning streak snapped in a 90-74 defeat to Western Michigan, and continued its misery in Kalamazoo, where the Rockets have now lost 13 of their past 15 games.
UT leading scorer Jonathan Williams did not start the game because of a disciplinary issue, but ended up leading the Rockets (9-7, 2-1 MAC) with 19 points.
Nate Navigato had 16 points, including four 3-pointers, Steve Taylor, Jr., scored 13, and Jordan Lauf had 11 points.
Western Michigan (5-10, 1-2 MAC) shot a blistering 70 percent (35-for-50) from the field, including 76 percent (19-for-25) in the second half.
“I just don’t think we had the energy level or the spunk that we’ve been playing with,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said.
“I don’t think we were talking and I don’t think we had active feet. Give them credit. They gave us some body blows early and I think we responded and were still in the game in the first half. In the second half, we just didn’t compete like we would like to.”
Five players scored in double figures for Western Michigan, led by 20 points from Reggie Jones and 19 from Thomas Wilder. Drake LaMont had 13 points for the Broncos, and Brandon Johnson and Tucker Haymond scored 12 each.
“They were hitting shots tonight,” Lauf said of Jones and Wilder.
“They are tough players, but we have to come with a defensive mindset that we can stop anybody. We didn’t have it tonight, so we’re going to look to regroup and be ready for Friday.”
Toledo cut the Western Michigan lead to four points at 63-59 after a layup by Lauf with 10:07 left in the game. But the Broncos quickly answered with six points to stretch the lead back to 10 with 8:32 remaining.
“There was that run in the middle of the second half that broke our back a little bit,” Kowalczyk said. “With a shorter bench without Zach [Garber] we probably fatigued a little bit more than I would have liked. But certainly not the way we wanted to play.”
Garber missed his second straight game with a foot injury, and depth in the frontcourt was an issue for Toledo against a big Western Michigan front line.
The Broncos quickly stretched the lead to 85-68 with 4:04 left in the game.
“We didn’t get stops when we needed to,” Lauf said. “We got it down to four points, but they took it right back to seven or nine. We just didn’t get stops down the stretch.”
Western Michigan led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but the Rockets cut the lead to four on two different occasions and trailed 42-37 at the half.
The Broncos came out red-hot, shooting 64 percent from the field in the first half, and Jones had 12 of his 20 points in the opening half and Wilder had 10 of his 19.
“The scouting report on Jones was that he was more of a post-up player,” Kowalczyk said. “But he started to hit some 3’s on us. I just don’t think we contested shots early on. I wish it was just one guy, but it was everybody. We didn’t have our defensive toughness that we normally do.”
The Rockets had a balanced scoring attack in the game, but ultimately couldn’t slow down Western Michigan on the defensive end.
Lauf said it is always hard to win at University Arena.
“It’s kind of a rivalry for us I guess,” Lauf said.
“They’re a physical team. It’s a physical game every time we play them. It’s a MAC West opponent so every game against them and every game against anybody is a tough one.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.