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HomeSportsUT
Published: Friday, 12/28/2001

Rockets on downward spiral

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ROCHESTER, Mich. - The University of Toledo basketball team entered this season with the third-best win-loss record in the Mid-American Conference over the past four years.

But coach Stan Joplin's Rockets are slipping fast.

Very fast.

Toledo, playing for the first time in 12 days, turned in its second consecutive pathetic performance while losing to Oakland 93-68 last night before 1,355 at the Athletics Center ‘O'rena.

The Rockets slipped to 3-6 after suffering their third straight road loss while Oakland improved to 3-0 at home and 6-7 overall.

“We just never did the things that we needed to do right,” said Toledo freshman Jim Clement, who scored a career-high 17 points, but had no assists and five turnovers. “It just seemed like every time we broke down a little bit on defense they'd take full advantage of that and get a layup or hit a 3 right in our face.

“We're a lot better offensive team than what we've played in the last two games. You're normally supposed to bring your A-game to the table. We brought our D-game with us tonight.

“I feel horrible. I should be feeling good, but when you get beat by that many points, it hurts. The only way to go is up from this position.”

UT's three guards - Terry Reynolds, Nick Moore (12 points) and Keith Triplett (11 points) - were a combined 8-for-34 from the floor and 3-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc. They also combined for 10 assists and 14 turnovers.

Reynolds, who had two points, no assists and seven turnovers, left with 6:37 remaining in the game after colliding with Oakland's Mychal Covington. Reynolds required three stitches above his eye and four in his lip.

But his teammates were hurting even more after the Rockets suffered their worst loss since a 93-76 setback to BowlingGreen on Jan. 15, 2000.

“It's as tough as it's been since I've been here,” Moore said. “We just need to pick the morale up on the team. We can't think we're down and out. We've got to keep playing.”

Triplett, a 6-3 sophomore from Bowsher, had another off-night shooting, going 4-for-13 from the field and 1-for-5 from beyond the arc. For the season, he is shooting 32.6 percent (32 of 98) from the field and 32.5 percent (13 of 40) from 3-point range.

“He's jumping in the air and making (bad) decisions,” UT coach Stan Joplin said. “I've never seen that before. This is the first time he's ever done that. For some reason, he's not shooting the ball well. He's rebounding and doing everything else, but we need him to score more than he's giving us right now.”

The Rockets also need to stop turning the ball over. They had a season-high 26 last night and have 66 in the past three games.

“Oakland kind of had their way with us offensively and defensively,” Joplin said. “We turned the ball over 26 times in 78 possessions, and you just can't do that. We've got to do a better job of making decisions. We had a lot of unforced turnovers. We're just not in sync yet.

“It just seems like we keep digging ourselves a hole. We just have to start doing a better job from the start.”

Toledo, held to just one basket in its final 22 possessions in an ugly 63-40 loss to Detroit on Dec. 15, wasn't much better last night. The Rockets had just 33 points at half while giving up 58.

Oakland, which snapped a four-game losing streak to Toledo, had four players in doubles in the first 20 minutes. Dan Champagne (26 points) led with 16 first-half points, while Jason Rozycki (20), Mike Helms (15) and Covington had 11 each in the first 20 minutes. The Golden Grizzlies shot 61.8 percent (21 of 34) and 55.6 (5 of 9) from beyond the 3-point line.

Those four players were 18-for-26 and scored 49 of Oakland's first-half points.

Meanwhile, Toledo shot 52.4 percent (11 of 21) in the first half, but the Rockets committed a whopping 16 turnovers to go with only eight assists - and Ricardo Thomas had five of those while playing 12 minutes after coming off the bench.

“Offensively, we're just not getting it done,” Moore said. “That's not us. We have to make plays; we have to make shots.”

Toledo opens MAC play next Saturday at Western Michigan.



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