The Rocket men’s basketball team lost to national powerhouse No. 2 Kansas 98-56 Nov. 28 at Allen Fieldhouse before erasing a 19-point deficit to win 71-69 against Texas Southern on Saturday.
Toledo is now 4-3 this season and remains undefeated at Savage Arena.
There was not much offense for UT against the Jayhawks as forwards Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Nate Navigato led the team with 12 points. Defensively, not much was working either as Kansas shot 69 percent from the field, including 60 percent from behind the arc.
Fourth-year guard Devontae’ Graham led the way for Kansas with a career-high 35 points and only missed five shots.
Kansas jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, and it looked like the game was going to get out of hand early. But UT answered with a couple of three-pointers to tie the game at nine.
The game was even through the beginning of the first half. About halfway through, the Jayhawks showed why they are the second-best team in the country with a 30-2 run that saw the lead grow to 48-17 with about four minutes left in the half.
Kansas did not slow down either, taking a 29-point lead into halftime. Their hot shooting continued in the second half as they easily avoided the upset.
UT returned home looking to bounce back against Texas Southern. Navigato led the way with 17 points as Fletcher added 16 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season.
Second-year center Luke Knapke had 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and first-year guard Marreon Jackson scored 14 points.
The dynamic backcourt duo of Donte’ Clark and Demontrae Jefferson combined to score 52 of the 69 points for the Tigers.
“They’re both extremely talented,” said head coach Tod Kowalczyk about Clark and Jefferson, “but I was just proud that we stayed together.”
Toledo forced Texas Southern into 18 turnovers, the most they’ve forced all year.
It did not take long for the Rockets to fall behind as TSU was ahead 13-3 just six minutes into the game. The lead stayed there until a 9-0 run by Texas Southern capped by an easy layup by Jefferson saw them take a 36-18 lead with 5:17 remaining in the first half.
Jackson nailed a jumper and Knapke knocked down a three with 30 seconds left in the first half to cut it to a 12-point deficit at halftime.
“In the first half, we got spooked a
nd that’s on me,” Kowalczyk said. “We hadn’t seen much of the 2-3 zone out of them, and it got us a little spooked.”
The Rockets carried that over into second half as a three by Jackson cut the lead to 46-41, forcing a timeout by TSU. Toledo took their first lead with 12:18 left as Navigato knocked down a triple to give them a one point lead.
But Texas Southern had no intention of going away easily; there were seven lead changes in the second half. An offensive rebound and putback by Fletcher tied the game at 64 with 1:50 remaining.
“We knew they were a good three-point shooting team. We knew what to expect; we just came out with low energy and we just got to pick it up for the next game,” said Fletcher.
After a miss by TSU, Fletcher hit another jump shot to put the Rockets up by four. A three-pointer by Jefferson with 20 seconds left cut it to 68-67, but Navigato knocked down two free throws to ice the game.
“I just liked our togetherness tonight. We got a little quiet in the first half, but nobody went their separate ways. That’s a sign of great leadership by Tre’Shaun Fletcher,” said Kowalcyzk about his fourth-year forward.
The Rockets are now 4-0 this season at Savage Arena and will look to get their first victory on the road as they visit Detroit Mercy Dec 6. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.