The last time Toledo and Bowling Green squared off in a basketball game this important, coaches Stan Joplin and Dan Dakich forgot their manners during the post-game handshake, Terry Reynolds was a showboat playmaker for the Rockets and BG's Keith McLeod was showcasing his skills for NBA scouts.
All those memories came flooding back last night at Savage Hall in the renewal of the I-75 series.
The Rockets and Falcons staged a thriller that left the partisan UT crowd satisfied, relieved and drained.
The contest featured more twists and turns than most Formula One races. It was intense and heated and filled with drama as UT had the game won several different times down the stretch before hanging on for an 83-80 victory.
When it was over, the crowd gave both teams a well-deserved standing ovation. For two hours the Rockets and Falcons played their collective tails off.
“I thought that was a hell of a basketball game,” said BG's Dakich.
If you didn't see the game, you might be wondering what Dakich is talking about. If you saw it, you need no explanation.
The Rockets matched the intensity of the Falcons, who feed off their coach's sideline steam with the force of their will.
“I think the players enjoyed it. I think the fans enjoyed it. It was a good basketball game,” said UT's Joplin.
A little more to the right, and maybe John Reimold's 3-pointer launched just before the final horn goes down and ties the score at 83-all.
“I'll take Reimold taking that shot any day of the week over any player I've coached,” said Dakich.
The importance of last night's UT victory can't be overstated. It was easily the most important game between the Falcons and Rockets in two seasons.
The Rockets improved to 8-0 at home this season because they have arguably the MAC's best player, senior Keith Triplett, and Joplin has surrounded Triplett with the deepest collection of basketball players the Rockets have had under Joplin.
Triplett was too quick and too strong for BG's guards. He scored 16 of his game-high 28 points in the second half.
These Rockets will go as far as Triplett and his supporting cast will take them.
UT freshman Justin Ingram scored 17 points, 14 after intermission. He drained a pair of 3-pointers to open the second half that ignited the Rockets' comeback. Sophomore Sammy Villegas chipped in with 10 points. Senior Ricardo Thomas added nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds in only 21 minutes and scored the go-ahead basket for an 82-80 UT lead with 1:23 to play.
Sure, Thomas was a difference-maker off the bench and fellow senior A.J. Shellabarger blocked Ron Lewis' layup late in the contest that would have made it 82-82. But next to Triplett, the most impressive player on the floor last night was 6-10 BG senior Kevin Netter, who totaled 23 points and seven rebounds and equaled his career high with five blocks. And how about the spark the Falcons got from Lewis, who showed he can put it on the floor and also shoot from outside in tallying 23 points.
BG didn't lose because it didn't play a good game. The Rockets just had a little more at the end.
Read the game story: UT-BG game story