Honesty is always appreciated, especially in dark moments.
University of Toledo basketball star Keith Triplett said the Rockets stopped playing as a team after their 81-76 win at Michigan State more than two months ago.
The Rockets have been in a tailspin ever since.
“The Michigan State game, we played as a team,” said Triplett, a Bowsher graduate who leads UT in scoring, rebounds, steals, free throws made, free throws attempted and ranks third in free-throw percentage. “Everybody scored, did their job, played their role. Then some games Nick [Moore] was scoring and I wasn't. Some games I was scoring and Nick wasn't, or Sammy [Villegas].
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“We weren't on the same page.”
Excuses are always easy to make. This season, UT returned four starters but point guard Terry Reynolds, who led the team in assists, transferred. The Rockets benefited from improved team chemistry without Reynolds, but they regressed as a team.
Triplett makes no excuses, cuts no corners. Asked if the Rockets would have won more games with Reynolds, Triplett replied, “We lost a lot of games we should have won this year. We made dumb turnovers. If we had a true point guard, our turnovers would be down.”
In checking, however, with Triplett on his personal relationship with Reynolds, and asking for his opinion, much might be learned at least about the poor on-court relationship between Reynolds and the Rockets. In the long run, the Rockets are better off without Reynolds.
“I don't know what would have happened” if Reynolds had returned, Triplett said. “I don't know what I would have been doing. My game probably would have been different.”
Let it be known however, that UT has regressed defensively. Through 25 games, UT's opponents were shooting 46.3 percent from the field while averaging 70.1 points. That's entirely too generous for a team that can count on just one player - Triplett - for a consistent offensive performance.
“It's not the coach's fault. Coaches don't play the game,” said Triplett, coming to coach Stan Joplin's defense. “They don't have anything to do with us missing shots, not playing defense. When we don't get it done it's the players' fault.”
Hoping to shake things up and pull the Rockets out of their slump, Joplin recently named Triplett a team captain along with Moore.
“Coach wants me to be a leader. After the Buffalo game [last Tuesday], he told me I'm going to be a new person, be a team captain,” Triplett said. “He's been telling me the whole season, but Nick's a senior.”
Moore doesn't want the responsibility that comes with being a captain. Triplett, a junior, doesn't want it either, not when there are older players on the team who should be stepping up. Triplett, though, is beginning to comprehend the clout his talent carries.
“When the game's close, they're telling me, `C'mon, make a play for us.' So I try to make plays,” Triplett said.
“Last year I was the defensive stopper. This year I'm scoring and I'm still playing defense and rebounding. I'm doing a lot more.”