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Rockets rebound over Ohio on the road

01/25/2017, 12:27am EST
By By BRIAN BUCKEY BLADE SPORTS WRITER

‘Grind-out win’ lifts Toledo’s confidence

ATHENS, Ohio — When a five-point halftime deficit quickly became a 10-point second half deficit it looked as if the University of Toledo men’s basketball team was spiraling towards its fourth-straight loss in a conference road game.

But Toledo, keyed by a 10-0 run to get back in the game, stayed the course and held on late to defeat Ohio 79-76 on Tuesday night at the Convocation Center.

“They stayed together, and they stayed confident,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “We talked about dealing with adversity on the road. We are going to have it, and we responded every time. But I thought our bench, our players, and our assistant coaches remained positive the entire time, and that’s a big key when you are on the road.”

On the last possession of the game, Toledo (11-9, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) left Ohio’s Jason Carter open for a 3-point attempt, but the freshman’s shot hit the iron. After a scramble for the ball, Ohio failed to get up a desperation attempt before the buzzer, and the Rockets had just their second road victory of the season.

“It was a grind-out win,” Kowlaczyk said. “I thought we did a heck of a job doing it on the defensive end. We got stops when we needed to and kept a couple possessions alive offensively which cut the clock down in our favor a little bit. Jordan Lauf had a tip-out and Navigato had an offensive rebound. This is a tough place to play against a good team. I’m proud of our defensive effort down the stretch, and offensively in the second half we were tremendous. We were unbelievably efficient, moved the ball, and just made the right plays.”

Steve Taylor, Jr., was a force inside for most of the game, leading Toledo with 25 points and 15 rebounds. Jonathan Williams added 15 points, Nate Navigato had 12, and Jaelan Sanford, 11.

“To start the game I missed a couple of bunnies near the rim,” Taylor said. “My biggest thing was not to get rattled. I know I can make shots, and I was just being humble and sticking to the game plan. Coach K believed in me and kept coming to me, so I appreciate him for that. The biggest key was just staying the course and not getting rattled and keep playing.”

Carter led Ohio (12-6, 4-3 MAC) with 20 points, proving to be a tough matchup for Taylor on the defensive end. Jaaron Simmons added 17 points and 10 assists, and Jordan Dartis finished with 13 points. The Bobcats were missing last year’s MAC player of the year Antonio Campbell, who is out for the season with a foot injury.

“We recruited him hard,” Kowalczyk said of Carter. “I love Jason Carter. He has a great family and is a great player. He’s going to be a load in the MAC for years to come.”

Toledo took a 78-73 lead after Navigato made two free throw attempts with 1:17 left. Ohio responded with a 3-pointer by Gavin Block to cut the lead to 78-76 with 1:04 left.

After Taylor threw away a pass deep in the paint on Toledo’s next possession, Simmons missed a tough running shot. Taylor took the rebound and passed to Williams who was fouled.

Williams made one-of-two free throws to give the Rockets a 79-76 lead and set up Ohio’s final possession.

“I wish we would have fouled,” Kowalczyk said of that possession. “Steve Taylor overhelped and gave up wide open 3-pointer. I don’t know what he was thinking on that, but we’ll watch the film, and he’ll be better for it.”

Toledo went into halftime trailing 39-34 and the Bobcats quickly stretched the lead to 46-36 with 17;41 left in the game. After Toledo fell behind 48-42 with 15:48 left to play, the Rockets responded with 10 straight points in about two minutes of game time to take a 52-48 lead.

The run was helped by five points from Taylor, including a 3-pointer, a layup by Williams, and a 3-pointer from Navigato.

The Rockets, who has lost road games to Western Michigan, Central Michigan, and Kent State in MAC games, came away with its second straight win over Ohio at the Convocation Center.

“We really needed it bad,” Taylor said. “We haven’t been playing as well on the road and to get the road win was amazing. It’s a big confidence game for us.”

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

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Tag(s): College  Toledo