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Toledo shoots way to road win at Ohio

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SPT UTMBB17 25/16/2017 Toledo's Tre'Shaun Fletcher questions his charging call during second half of the basketball game against Wright State at the University of Toledo's Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio. THE BLADE/LORI KING

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ATHENS, Ohio – Not even the top 3-point percentage defense in the Mid-American Conference could slow down the red-hot shooting display of the University of Toledo men’s basketball team on Tuesday night.

Toledo, the top 3-point shooting team in the MAC, made eight of its first 10 attempts from beyond the arc and opened up a 22-point lead in the opening half of a 91-57 victory over Ohio at the Convocation Center.

“One of our slogans has been we want to count by 3’s,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “We need to shoot more 3’s. We’ve been skilled. If you look at our offensive numbers over time the last four years, I’d argue with anybody that we are best in the league offensively. One number that has never been good for us is 3-point field goals made per game. We are only sixth or seventh. That’s a number that really stood out to me.”

The Rockets, after making 14 3-pointers in a win at Central Michigan last game, stayed hot shooting 13-of-22 from the 3-point line as they won their fourth consecutive game and their seventh in the last eight games.

With the win, Toledo (12-6, 4-1 MAC) moves into sole possession of first place in the MAC West.

“We are getting better defensively and that is still a work in progress,” Kowalczyk said. “Offensively we are just so unselfish and it starts with our leader Tre’Shaun [Fletcher]. He’d rather get 10 assists over 25 points. When we move the ball, we are hard to defend. We are very skilled.”

Fletcher led Toledo with 18 points, Jaelan Sanford and Nate Navigato added 16 points and Willie Jackson scored 14 off the bench.

“Offensively we move the ball and we have so many unselfish players,” Navigato said. “When we do that and we trust one another, we can get anything we want offensively. I think it was the extra pass and our execution. We practice this everyday in practice and we practice our execution. When we are coming off screens shoulder-to-shoulder, people are going to be open and we trust each other to make shots.”

In the first half alone, Marreon Jackson was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, Navigato and Fletcher were 2-for-2 and Sanford made his only attempt.

“Once somebody gets hot, I feel like the energy goes up and everybody else on the team starts getting hot,” Navigato said. “That’s the beauty of our team.”

Doug Taylor paced Ohio (8-9, 1-4 MAC) with 15 points and Teyvion Kirk added 10. The Bobcats have now lost three straight games.

Toledo, led by Willie Jackson’s 14 points off the bench, outscored Ohio 30-13 in bench points.

“Willie just brings energy and a junk-yard dog mentality,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s brings an unbelievable toughness and borderline arrogance in a good way.”

Jackson added eight rebounds, including three offensive rebounds. 

“Willie had a bunch of put backs today, which helped us a lot,” Navigato said. “His toughness really helps.”

The Rockets shot 52.2 percent from the field and had 18 assists on its 35 made field goals.

On the other side of the ball, Toledo held Ohio to the lowest scoring output of any opponent this season. The Bobcats shot 34.9 percent from the field in the game and 20 percent from the 3-point line. Toledo forced 11 turnovers, while Ohio managed just seven assists.

“I thought we played great defensively all game,” Navigato said. “We knew our scouting report and stuck to it all game.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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