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Toledo routs rival Bowling Green

01/18/2017, 12:49am EST
By By BRIAN BUCKEY BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Navigato’s 3-point shots help lead Rockets to win over Falcons


University of Toledo forward Nate Navigato shoots a 3-pointer against BG's Demajeo Wiggins. Navigato led the Rockets to a win over the Falcons with a career highs of 22 points and seven assists. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

An unselfish offensive effort and a hot 3-point shooting night from Nate Navigato helped the University of Toledo men’s basketball team to an 85-73 win over rival Bowling Green on Tuesday at Savage Arena.

Toledo dished out a season-high 23 assists on its 29 field goals and as a result five players scored in double figures as the Rockets won their sixth straight game in the I-75 rivalry.

Navigato led the offensive effort for the Rockets (10-8, 3-2 Mid-American Conference) with a career-high 22 points, including 6-of-8 shooting from the 3-point line as well as a career-high seven assists. Jonathan Williams added 20 points, Jaelan Sanford scored 13, Luke Knapke had 12, and Steve Taylor, Jr., had 10 points and 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season.

IN PICTURES: Toledo too much for BGSU

“To start the game and to end the half, everybody was moving, everybody was screening, everyone was passing,” Navigato said. “When that happens, we are going to get wide-open 3’s and wide-open layups and good post-ups for Steve [Taylor] and Luke [Knapke].”

Navigato’s hot shooting helped Toledo space the floor and get good looks for most of the night on the offensive end.

“What’s important about it is our spacing on the floor,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “It opens everything up. Now we can get penetration. That’s why 23 assists on 29 field goals, that’s a heck of day. That’s a team that is unselfish and is sharing the ball.”

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Springfield graduate Demajeo Wiggins led Bowling Green (7-11, 1-4 MAC) with 17 points, Wes Alcegaire scored 14, and Zack Denny added 12.

The Rockets led by as many as 22 in the second half after six straight points from Knapke gave UT a 64-42 edge with 9:56 left to play.

Bowling Green was able to battle back and cut the Toledo lead to as little as nine points on several occasions, including at 80-71 after a Dylan Frye layup with 46 seconds left. That would be the closest the Falcons would get in the game.

“Our guys fought back,” BG coach Michael Huger said. “We didn’t have the best start to the game in the first or second half, but I like the way we competed. We still have a long ways to go before we will be at the level we want to be at, but I like the fight.”

Toledo led by as many as 15 points in the opening half after Knapke made two free throws with 13:38 left to make the score 21-6.

Bowling Green then responded with an 11-0 run over the next three minutes and worked all the way back to a 32-30 lead after Wiggins made a driving layup.

The Rockets went on a 13-0 run over the final four minutes of the half after trailing 32-30 with 4:33 left.

Williams and Sanford hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the run, and Navigato closed the run with his fourth 3-pointer of the opening half.

“When my teammates find me for open shots, that just gives me the confidence and I know they have confidence in me to hit the shots,” Navigato said. “They were able to go down and that really helped us.”

The run before the half was a back-breaker for Bowling Green, and Huger said it was an important stretch of the game. 

“It was very big,” Huger said. “We couldn’t score over that time and we couldn’t get stops. If you are able to score now it’s 43-41 or whatever. If you can’t score and you turn the ball over, that triggers their runs and that’s what we did. They were able to take advantage of it and we didn’t.”

For Toledo, the run gave them a 43-32 advantage at halftime and positioned them well for the second half.

“I thought the story of the game was how we ended the first half,” Kowalcyzk said. “I thought before that stretch, we kind of lost our swagger and lost our confidence. But that is when you have to have good leaders and our leaders kept them together and we didn’t panic and we kept playing even though we weren’t playing well in that stretch. I thought our energy level, our shot selection and our transition offense was really, really good [during the run]. Second half was just a back-and-forth battle, but I’m really proud of a lot of our guys.”

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.

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University of Toledo head Tod Kowalczyk shouts instructions to his team in the win over Bowling Green. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

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