Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Rockets face struggling Huskies

Sophomore guard Nick Moore remembers the awful feeling he had in his stomach last month when the University of Toledo basketball team lost 69-67 on the road at Northern Illinois.

It was the Rockets' second straight loss in the Mid-American Conference, and was just the beginning of a horrendous shooting slump that would eventually result in five losses in six games for UT.

With the win, Northern Illinois improved to 3-3 in the MAC's West Division with its second consecutive victory, while Toledo slipped to 4-2.

“That was a terrible loss,” Moore said. “You never want to lose to a team like that. That really hurt. That hurt a lot.”

Moore and his teammates will be looking to exact some revenge tonight at 7 at Savage Hall when UT and Northern Illinois meet for the second time in three weeks.

The Rockets (14-8, 6-5) are coming off a 30-point victory over Akron Wednesday night. It was their largest margin of victory in a MAC road game in school history. UT also shot a season-high 61.7 percent from the field and a team conference-high 66.7 percent from 3-point range.

On the other hand, the Huskies (4-16, 3-8) have lost five in a row and have not won since beating the Rockets on Jan. 20.

Northern Illinois, 0-7 on the road, was blitzed by Marshall 94-66 Wednesday. In that game, interim coach Andy Greer benched three of his starters at the beginning for recent poor play.

The Huskies' leading scorer and rebounder, Leon Rodgers, had a horrendous game against the Thundering Herd.

He made just 2 of 13 shots and finished with eight points and one rebound.

“I was just trying to send a message to our team that we need to play harder,” Greer said. “It was another tough game for us. We ran into a talented Marshall ballclub. Our energy needs to be more. Our kids are flat.

“Mentally, we're out of it.”

The Rockets trailed 68-57 with 1:16 to play at Northern Illinois, yet still had a chance to force overtime if Greg Stempin had been able to convert either of two put-back attempts in the final two seconds.

“We really want to jump on Northern Illinois this time, pressure them and take it right at them,” Stempin said.

All nine players on UT's roster played at least 10 minutes against Akron, and helped hold the MAC's top 3-point shooting team to just 5-of-12 from beyond the arc.

“I thought we did a good job defensively,” UT coach Stan Joplin said.

“The players wanted to press, so we did, and I think we hurt Akron a little bit. I was afraid to press because we're short one guard and our bench hasn't been playing real well.

“I think every game is going to come down to the last two or three minutes, and I want to keep our guys fresh as possible.”

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