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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2002

Defense helps UT regain 2nd in West

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo's Nick Moore gets his 3-pointer off over Central Michigan's Chad Pleiness (45) and J.R. Wallace (2). Moore went 2-for-3 from 3-point range and led the Rockets with 15 points. Toledo's Nick Moore gets his 3-pointer off over Central Michigan's Chad Pleiness (45) and J.R. Wallace (2). Moore went 2-for-3 from 3-point range and led the Rockets with 15 points.
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The University of Toledo basketball team certainly won't win any style points for its performance last night, but the Rockets found a way to win ugly.

Despite being held to five field goals in the first half for the second straight game, UT managed to pull out a sluggish 58-42 victory before 3,918 fans in Savage Hall.

Toledo (8-11, 5-5 MAC) improved to 5-2 at home, snapped a two-game losing streak and moved back into second place in the West Division.

Meanwhile, defending MAC regular-season champion Central Michigan (7-12, 4-7) lost for the third time in four games. The Chippewas were held to a season-low 42 points and shot a season-low 31.9 percent (15 of 47) in falling to 1-8 on the road.

It was the lowest shooting percentage by an opponent against the Rockets this season and the fewest points UT has allowed in a MAC game since a 53-41 home win over Bowling Green on Jan 31, 1998.

“I think the key was defense,” UT coach Stan Joplin said “I thought our guys did a really nice job. The first time we played them, they kind of had their way with us. They really took us off the dribble and penetrated, and shot a lot of free throws.”

Seven-foot center Chris Kaman had 22 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 8-for-10 from the floor in CMU's 14-point victory over the Rockets on Jan. 22. Chad Pleiness had 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting, and reigning MAC player of the year David Webber scored 15 on 3-for-10 shooting.

Last night, the Rockets held Kaman to seven points and seven rebounds, while Pleiness was 1-for-10 from the floor with two points. Webber scored 15 again, but was 5-for-13 shooting, including 1-for-5 beyond the arc.

“We didn't want Kaman and Pleiness to kill us like they've always done,” Joplin said.

“I told [Keith Triplett] just to pressure the ball and I stayed on Webber,” UT point guard Terry Reynolds said. “I am a little bit quicker. I can stay in front of him. Trip pressured the ball, and [Webber] comes off a lot of screens so it gave me time to get up on him so he couldn't get open looks.

“We also practiced all week against Kaman. When he touched the ball, we wanted to make him work for it, and not give him any easy post touches.”

Junior guard Nick Moore, who averaged 16.3 points while shooting 44.8 percent from 3-point range in the last four games, had a team-high 15 points for the Rockets, who snapped a three-game losing streak against CMU. Moore made 5 of 8 shots, including two 3-pointers. Reynolds added 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

Triplett had been averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in his first six home games. But he was 1-for-9 last night - he is 1-for-14 the last two games - and finished with six points, five rebounds, three turnovers and no assists.

Even so, Joplin said he's not worried about Triplett's shooting.

“He's made some shots and he's missed some shots,” he said. “He's missed layups, he's missed free throws, but the thing about it is he continues to play, and that's what we want him to do. We want him to be aggressive.”

Toledo, which plays at Miami on Saturday, had 18 turnovers and seven assists. CMU had 16 turnovers and eight assists. The Rockets, who led 22-19 at halftime, shot 38.6 percent (17 of 44) while out-rebounding the Chippewas 36-34, including a 21-14 edge in the second half.

“It certainly wasn't a great offensive show by either team,” CMU coach Jay Smith said. “I'm not sure it was good defense, either.”

The Rockets missed six layups in the first half and nine overall.

“Missed layups, those hurt you because those are the easy ones, those are the gimmes,” Moore said. “There's no excuse for it. We have to make those.”



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