A late steal off an inbounds pass and an end-of-game drought doomed the University of Toledo men’s basketball team as the Rockets fell 93-87 to Marshall on Saturday night at Savage Arena.
With the game tied at 87 with 55 seconds left, Toledo’s Tre’Shaun Fletcher tried to find Marreon Jackson, but Marshall’s C.J. Burks stepped in the passing lane, then raced down court for a breakaway dunk.
Toledo guard Tre'Shaun Fletcher looks to pass around Marshall forward Darius George during Saturday's game at Savage Arena.
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“I saw Marreon Jackson open, but then [Burks] ran fast and just jumped in out of nowhere,” Fletcher said. “I should’ve just faked to Marreon and did something else. He just made a play and I made a bad decision. I take full ownership for that.”
On the next possession, Sanford appeared to have an open lane for a layup, but was instead blocked by Ajdin Penava and the Rockets were forced to foul Marshall’s Jon Elmore.
“[Penava] had a huge block, and that was probably the play of the game,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “He got to the rim and it looked to me like Jaelan was going to score, and then he came out of nowhere and made a big play.”
Elmore made both free throws and Dani Koljanin added a late dunk to seal the game.
Fletcher scored a career-high 31 points for Toledo (5-4), while Luke Knapke added 18 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Sanford chipped in with 13 points.
Elmore paced Marshall (7-3) with 25 points, Penava added 24, and Jarrod West and Burks scored 12 each.
Toledo led by as many as 11 points in the second half, and was holding onto an 87-79 lead with just less than three minutes remaining after Fletcher hit two free throws.
From that point, Toledo failed to score and Marshall closed the game on a 14-0 run.
“They picked up the pressure, and we weren’t getting into our sets like we normally do,” Fletcher said. “We just were out of rhythm, and we have to be better in late-game situations. We have drills to work on those late game-situations every day. We just have to take pride in that and do a better job of that. We’ll get better at that and we’ll learn from this one.”
The Rockets struggled to get good looks late in the game as they tried to run down the clock on their offensive sets and often found themselves scrambling in a late shot-clock situation.
Jaelan Sanford of Toledo shoots over Marshall's Ajdin Penava.
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“We had some costly turnovers and I think the last three minutes, we were too worried about the clock and trying to rely on that and run it down and shorten the game,” Kowalczyk said. “Instead of just going into our offense, we were worried about just getting the shot clock down. They made some great plays and made some unbelievably tough finishes.”
Fletcher was 15-of-16 from the foul line and 7-of-15 from the field. As a team, Toledo was 24-of-28 from the foul line and Marshall was just 19-of-29. Elmore was 10-of-18 from the line as the game was called tightly, as a total of 46 fouls were called.
Similar to the Detroit Mercy game earlier in the week, which the Rockets won on a 3 by Fletcher at the buzzer, Toledo once again let a late lead slip away. But this time they were unable to come up with the key plays close out the game.
“It was really tough,” Fletcher said. “We had the lead and we let the same thing happen in Detroit and we made some plays down the stretch. We didn’t make those same plays down the stretch in this game. We can’t put ourselves in that position to allow it to come down to something like that. The turnovers at the end really killed us. I feel like we just gave that game away. Not to take anything away from Marshall, but we gave that game away.”
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