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Ball State ends Rockets’ Streak

February 7, 2018

 

The Rockets men’s basketball team got their seven-game winning streak snapped at Savage Arena by Ball State University 75-63. The team got back to their winning ways three days later as they crushed Akron 77-56.

The Rockets have won eleven of their last thirteen games and are now 18-7 (8-2 MAC).

Fourth-year guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher led Toledo’s offense against the Cardinals, recording 16 points, ten rebounds and six assists. Third-year guard Jaelen Sanford and second-year forward Luke Knapke added 14 and 11 points, respectively.

A key to victory for BSU came in the rebounding department as they outperformed UT 58-41. The team was led by second-year forward Tahjai Teague with 21 points and 11 rebounds and third-year center Trey Moses with 15 points 14 boards.

“It comes down to one thing: We got our butts kicked on the glass, plain and simple,” said head coach Tod Kowalczyk after the game.

All-conference guard Taylor Persons added 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

BSU started quick and never looked back, scoring the first six points of the game. The lead stretched to 17-7, capped off with a three by Teague with 14:10 left.

The Rockets could not get anything going on offense and found themselves trailing by 17 with six minutes left in the first half. They were finally able to get some scoring, led by Fletcher, and cut the deficit to single digits.

After a three by Fletcher cut it to eight, Moses snuck through the Toledo defense for a layup just before the first-half buzzer. The Cardinals held the lead 37-27.

Both teams came out of the locker room cold as there was not a basket scored for almost two minutes.

UT started to find a groove on offense, but the Cardinals had an answer every time Toledo tried to make a run. The Rockets battled to cut the deficit to 51-44 and forced the Cardinals to take a timeout with 10 minutes remaining.

Eight straight points by Ball State saw them regain a 14-point lead with just over six minute left in the game. Fletcher dropped in a layup with 1:43 left to make it an eight-point game, but that was the last basket for the Rockets as their win streak was stopped 75-63.

“I think this game is going to be good for us,” Fletcher said. “Now we’re going to be ready to get that edge back.”

They did bounce back a few days later as they dominated Akron. Fletcher was on the loose again as he put up 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Sanford had 18 points, seven boards and five assists of his own.

The UT offense was back on track as they shot 50 percent from the field and limited the Zips to just 39 percent shooting. The Rockets also won the rebounding battle 40-31.

“Coach emphasized rebounding,” Sanford said. “When we start guard rebounding, it really allows us to have more of an advantage to separate from these teams.”

Akron got off to the quick start, scoring the first seven points of the game. UT answered by going on a 12-2 run to take a three-point lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.

The lead only grew from there as second-year guard Justin Roberts came off the bench to hit two huge threes. The Zips showed they could hit from behind the arc too; they hit three triples to cut the lead to 29-27 with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Akron did not score for the rest of the half as the Rockets went into halftime with a 35-27 lead.

UT scored the first five points of the second half to take 13-point lead. Seven straight points by UT were capped off by a triple from third-year forward Nate Navigato. That made it 51-32, and the Rockets did not look back from there.

“We lost for one game, but we got our edge back,” Kowalczyk said.

The Zips never got back within 14 and ended up losing by a final margin of 21.

The midnight blue and gold return to the court Feb. 6 as they host Northern Illinois at Savage Arena. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

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