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Published: Sunday, 1/14/2001

Rockets hold off Falcons

UT's Greg Stempin, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds, shoots over BG's Len Matela last night at Savage Hall. The Rockets are 12-3, 4-0 in the MAC, and have won 14 straight conference games, two shy of the conference record. UT's Greg Stempin, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds, shoots over BG's Len Matela last night at Savage Hall. The Rockets are 12-3, 4-0 in the MAC, and have won 14 straight conference games, two shy of the conference record.

The University of Toledo basketball team has followed the same script over and over this season.

Build a double-digit lead, blow it, then rally for a victory.

The Rockets led by as many as 11 points in the first half last night against rival Bowling Green State University, lost that lead early in the second half, but rallied in the closing minutes for a 76-73 win before 8,495 fans at Savage Hall.

Brandon Pardon's potential game-tying 3-point shot for BG bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.

“It was a gut-wrenching game,” said UT guard Nick Moore, who matched his career high with 20 points. “It was just back-and-forth in the second half. We'd hit a big shot to take the lead, and then they'd hit one to take the lead.

“We just couldn't seem to get a defensive stop to save our lives until the end.”

UT captured its 14th straight regular-season victory in the Mid-American Conference while improving to 4-0 in conference play. The conference record for most consecutive wins is 16, set by Miami in the late 1950s.

The Rockets, 12-3 overall after winning their fifth straight game, were victorious because of some clutch 3-point shooting down the stretch.

Stempin, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, hit a 3-point shot with 1:40 left to give the Rockets a 70-68 lead.

“That was a big 3 by Greg - it really helped us,” UT coach Stan Joplin said.

Said Stempin: “They set a screen for me, I got the ball and just shot it. Luckily, it went in for us.”

Stempin finished 7-of-15 from the floor with three 3-pointers. It was his 22nd career double-double.

“Those should be typical Greg Stempin numbers,” Joplin said. “I think he's that type of player.”

Afterward, BG's Trent Jackson turned the ball over without a shot with 1:06 left.

Then Stempin drove the lane, sucked the defense in on him, then dished the ball to Terry Reynolds, whose 3-pointer gave UT a 73-68 lead with 36.6 seconds left.

“The difference in the game is (Stempin) hitting a standstill 3 with a guy (Len Matela) right in his face,” BG coach Dan Dakich said. “My hat's off to Stempin. I think he's a great player.”

Bowling Green, which had won 11 of the past 15 meetings in the series that began in 1915, fell to 1-5 on the road. The Falcons are 6-7 overall, 2-2 in the MAC.

UT now holds a 73-70 lead in the series.

“We put forth a lot of effort, but we came up short,” said Matela, who led the Falcons with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Moore, UT's top 3-point threat, hit 3 of 6 from beyond the arc in the first half while scoring a team-high 13 points.

Stempin added 10, hitting two field goals and two 3-pointers, and moved into seventh place on the school's all-time scoring list. He now has 1,369 career points.

Moore, who has scored in double figures in eight straight games, gave the Rockets an 11-point lead - their biggest of the first half - at 32-21 when he drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 4:55 remaining.

But Jackson kept the Falcons in the game almost single-handedly, hitting a pair of 3-pointers 50 seconds apart to cap an 8-1 run and slice UT's lead to four, 33-29, with 4:03 left.

UT, though, was able to maintain that four-point cushion, holding a 39-35 edge at halftime.

Matela led BG with 12 points in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting. He finished 8 of 12 from the field.

Jackson also was 4-of-5 for 10 first-half points, while McLeod added 11 but was just 3-of-10 from the floor. McLeod finished with 19 points, while Jackson had 16 on 7-of-9 shooting.

BG shot 53 percent from the field (27 of 51) for the game and was 4-of-8 (50 percent) from beyond the arc.

UT shot 43.4 percent from the field (23 of 53) and from 43.5 percent from 3-point range (10 of 23).

“The 3-point shots definitely helped us tonight,” Moore said. “We were getting a lot of open looks. Those 3's Greg and Terry hit at the end were the two biggest 3s we made all night.”

UT plays host to Ball State Wednesday at Savage Hall, while BG is on the road at Akron.

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