The University of Toledo men’s basketball team beat UC-Irvine by a score 67-60 to take the Gulf Coast Showdown title last Wednesday in Ft. Myers.
“We didn’t play well in the first half tonight,” head coach Tod Kowalcyzk, “Our guys came together, they stayed positive and they chipped away. I thought we played exceptional basketball.”
This victory not only brought the Rockets’ overall record for the season to an impressive 5-1, but it also marked the third tournament title earned by Kowalczyk.
Fourth-year Jaelan Sanford and third-year Luke Knapke were the point leaders for the Rockets, scoring 18 and 17 points respectively. On the Anteater side, John Edgar Jr. led the way with an impressive 16-point effort.
In terms of shooting percentage, Toledo managed to edge out UC-Irvine, making 43.5 percent of its shots, compared to only 37.5 percent on the Anteater side.
The first half of the game didn’t exactly go as planned with the Rockets only making 28 percent of their shot attempts, and trailing into the half by seven. For comparison, the Anteaters drained 37 percent of shots in the first half.
The Rockets came thundering out of the gates to start the second half, closing the gap between the two teams on four separate occasions, but it would take a pair of threes from Rockets Dylan Alderson and AJ Edu to finally seal the deal and take the lead back from UC-Irvine. These shots were part of a 12-0 scoring run from the Rockets.
Toledo rallied in the second half and scored on 60 percent of its attempts. UC-Irvine kept its shooting average relatively the same from the first half, making only 37.14 percent of its shots.
Shooting percentage wasn’t the only differentiation between the two teams; Toledo out rebounded its opponent, grabbing 50 loose balls to the Anteaters’ 47. Toledo also outscored UC-Irvine in terms of second chance baskets and points coming from the bench.
This impressive second half effort from the Rockets was enough to secure the title. After securing the lead with just over 13 minutes left in the game, Toledo refused to cede control of the game for the remainder.
The Rockets briefly held the largest lead of the game when they went up by 10 around the four-minute mark in the second half.
This important tournament win extends the Rocket winning streak to three games and ends the six-game win streak of UC-Irvine.
The Rockets in the next week will take on the North Alabama Lions at 7 p.m., Nov. 28 and the Cleveland State Vikings at 2 p.m., Dec. 1.