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Published: Sunday, 12/21/2008

Turnovers hampering Toledo

The University of Toledo continued to waste possessions Saturday night. At least the Rockets are squandering them on an equal-opportunity basis.

They turned the ball over 26 times in a recent loss to a previously winless Wright State team and, this time, they coughed it up 22 times in a 71-63 loss to a Houston team that is now 7-1.

If the Rockets can't get a grip on things it could get ugly, because the next three foes set to visit Savage Arena - Illinois-Chicago, Dayton and Rhode Island - are presently a combined 24-6.

"It's something that has bitten us the entire year," UT coach Gene Cross, whose team is 2-8, said of the turnovers and sloppy play. "I'm at my wit's end."

Although it's about the last thing, philosophically, that Cross would want to do, he said he's willing to slow the game to a crawl if need be to correct the problem.

"I'll do whatever I have to do to make sure we take care of the ball, and if that means having to walk the ball up the court, we'll walk it up the court. I don't want to [do that], but as a coach you have to make adjustments and then you have to make adjustments to the adjustments."

It may not be that easy, though, because as Cross admitted the statistics look a lot like the 2007-08 Rockets posted and it has been, as he put it, "the same players, the same results."

UT averaged 16 turnovers per game last season, shot under 40 percent from the field and averaged less than 60 points per game. This Rockets edition is averaging 19-plus turnovers and less than 60 points and, with a couple more performances like Saturday night, will get that field goal percentage south of 40.

Last season's Rockets finished with 11 wins and, just maybe, that's starting to look good to their first-year coach.

While the problem a year ago was the lack of a true point guard, Cross points out that most of this season's ills are emanating from elsewhere.

Starting point guard Anthony Byrd had just three turnovers Saturday night, but wingmen Tyrone Kent and Jonathan Amos had eight and five, respectively.

"Too much of the problem is coming in our half-court offense, sometimes by not being strong enough with the ball in the lane," Cross said.

But there were ample problems on the perimeter, too, as Houston notched 15 steals, many of them on reach-ins and tips from behind as the Rockets tried to move the ball in transition.

Were the wrong people handling the ball?

"Whenever one of our guys gets the ball off the boards, he's a guard," Cross said. "They have to be skilled enough to bring the ball up-court. They have to be more alert, more confident, less sloppy.

"It's something we can correct. We can fix it. We'd better fix it."

The Rockets had better fix Kent, too. Arguably their best player, the 6-foot-5 senior was 1-of-12 from the floor Saturday night, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Amos had a team-high 16 points, but it came on 5-of-16 shooting.

If there was a silver lining Saturday night it was that UT shot 39 percent, kicked the ball away 22 times, was outscored by 34-22 in the paint and was still in the game late into the second half before losing by eight points to a decent Houston team.

But it isn't about to get any easier over the next couple weeks before the Rockets enter Mid-American Conference play.



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