There's no “next time around” for seniors. Whatever you don't do today just never gets done.
University of Toledo senior Ricardo Thomas felt that sense of urgency last night when his team faced rival Bowling Green State University at Savage Hall for what is likely the final time in his career.
Thomas came off the bench and had a career-high 11 rebounds to go with his nine points, helping the Rockets remain in first place in the Mid-American Conference's West Division with an 83-80 win over rival Bowling Green.
The 6-7 senior from Detroit got five of his rebounds on the offensive end, blocked three shots, and had two offensive boards in one possession in the final two minutes. It was a driving basket by Thomas with 1:19 to play that put the Rockets ahead for the last time.
“I think the guys see the sense of urgency in me out there,” Thomas said. “When I come off the bench, I look to provide instant energy. The more good things you do, the longer you get to stay on the court, so I have to make the most of it when I'm out there.”
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Toledo (13-3, 7-1) led by one with just under four minutes to play when Keith Triplett, who led the Rockets with 28 points, hit a pair of foul shots to put UT up 78-73. When Thomas collected two straight offensive rebounds with a little over two minutes left, he got fouled and hit both shots for an 80-75 Toledo lead.
BG's John Reimold buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:06 left to cut the lead back to two, and freshman Austin Montgomery sank two free throws at the 1:50 mark to knot the game at 80.
After Triplett could not shake loose for a shot, Thomas drove and scored for an 82-80 UT advantage. Bowling Green's Ron Lewis, who along with Kevin Netter led the Falcons with 23 points, went hard to the deck after getting tied up on his way to the basket and the possession arrow went Toledo's way.
Lewis had to foul to get BG the ball back, and Sammy Villegas hit one of his two shots with 23 seconds left for the three-point lead. After Netter missed a jump hook, there was another held ball with 6.5 seconds to play and the Falcons got one last shot to tie it. Reimold got a good look from just outside the 3-point line but his shot just caught the back of the rim and glanced off.
“I'll take Reimold with that shot anytime,” BG head coach Dan Dakich said. “It was one heck of a basketball game, but unfortunately for us, the last shot didn't go in.”
The Falcons (8-9, 4-3) came out energized and went up by as many as nine in the first five minutes by utilizing the play of Netter, who twice ran the floor and followed up missed layups with dunks. Toledo held just a couple of brief leads in the first half, and trailed 44-41 to the Falcons at the break.
Toledo freshman point guard Justin Ingram nailed a couple of 3-pointers and scored eight points in just over three minutes to open the second half as the Rockets pulled back to a tie at 52.
The Falcons led 58-57 with 13 minutes left in the game on a basket by Lewis, but Toledo went on a 12-2 run as Triplett started attacking the basket and led 69-60 with about eight minutes left.
“I made the decision in the second half to pick my game up and drive to the basket,” Triplett said. “When I pick my game up, everybody else follows.”
Toledo was up 74-64 with 5:26 to play, but the Falcons got a dunk from Netter, a 3-pointer from Montgomery, free throws from Lewis and another bucket inside from Netter to cut the lead to just one with four minutes left.
“The amazing thing is that it is very tough for this team to play with a lead,” UT head coach Stan Joplin said. “We were up 10 points, and I think Bowling Green erased that in a minute. But overall in the second half we did a better job of taking care of the basketball, and we realized we had to get the ball to Keith Triplett because he can make plays. He makes everyone better.”
Read the John Harris column on the game: Harris column on UT-BG