The University of Toledo men’s basketball team has now won 10 of its last 11 games after defeating Northern Illinois 82-77 and Miami (OH) 73-67.
With the two wins, the Rockets are now 18-7 (10-2 MAC). They have won five straight road games, and 10-2 is the best start in conference play for UT since 2006-07.
“We’ve been playing better on the road all year,” said head coach Tod Kowalczyk. “We have to find a way to have more energy and confidence at home.”
Toledo overcame good shooting from Northern Illinois by knocking down 11 three-pointers.
Third-year guard Jaelan Sanford led the offense with 22 points, and fourth-year guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher added 20 points along with six rebounds and five assists.
But the biggest shot came from first-year guard Marreon Jackson. With 54 seconds on the clock, Jackson knocked down a three to give UT a 78-75 advantage.
It was a slow start for the Rockets, but Fletcher got them going with a three followed by a dunk plus the foul to put UT ahead by seven with 12:26 left.
The lead grew as big as 13 after a triple by Jackson put the Rockets ahead 33-20. The last basket of the first half came on a layup by Fletcher, who scored a team-high 15 points in the first half. Toledo led 40-28 at halftime.
The Huskies did not go away quietly. They went on a huge 16-2 run early in the second half to tie the game at 44 with 13:26 remaining in the game. After that point, there were three ties and three lead changes.
“I thought our guys got a little deer-in-headlights,” Kowalcyzk said on how NIU got back in the game. “We lost our flow on both ends.”
Toledo kept the pressure on by getting to the free throw line and making shots. The Huskies tied the game with two free throws of their own, but second-year forward Luke Knapke hit a three with 1:26 left in the game.
“In the second half, they made a run, but we stayed together and do what we do to get the win,” Sanford said.
After Jackson hit the three to give UT the lead, he made four free throws in the final minute to help secure the five-point victory.
Traveling to Oxford to battle Miami (OH) is never easy for the Rockets but they escaped with their fifth straight road victory.
Third-year forward Nate Navigato spearheaded the offense, scoring 19 points and grabbing six rebounds. Fletcher added 18 points and a team-high six rebounds. Knapke came up big on defense with a career-high five blocks.
Neither team was shooting the ball well to begin the game. There were only 19 points between both teams through the first 10 minutes of the game with the Redhawks holding a slim 10-9 lead.
Fletcher made a strong drive to the rim and laid it in to give UT a two-point lead. Several minutes later, Navigato hit a triple to put Toledo up by seven.
That sparked the Rockets scoring six of the last eight points and took a 33-22 lead into halftime.
Five straight points by the Redhawks early in the second half cut their deficit to just five. A three-pointer by Nick Sandade tied the game for Miami (OH) at 39.
“They scored fourteen points in four minutes,” said Kowalczyk. “We had some miscommunications on ball screens.”
Navigato stepped up with another big three to put the Rockets up by five with 10:38 left in the game. The Redhawks cut it as low as three with 2:22 left.
But UT shot excellent from the free throw line in the final two minutes of the game. They hit both free throws four separate times during that stretch.
Miami (OH) continued to score but fell short 73-67. The midnight blue and gold return to the court Feb. 13 as they host Ohio University at Savage Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.