BOWLING GREEN - That masked man on the court at Anderson Arena hardly resembled the Keith Triplett who had averaged 25 points in his last three games against rival Bowling Green.
Last night, the University of Toledo senior hit only 5-of-15 shots from the field and scored just 14 points as the Rockets fell 79-76 in overtime.
Triplett, who had his nose broken Saturday in the first half in a loss at Nevada, played last night wearing a clear plastic protective mask. He had been shooting just under 50 percent from the field this season, but struggled adjusting to the mask.
“I think it affected him,” UT coach Stan Joplin said. “I don t know, because I never wore a mask, but it was a little bit of a nuisance because the gym was kind of hot.”
Triplett, who declined to be interviewed following the game, seemed to spend most of the first half last night just getting used to the mask. Each time he bumped a BG player or ran into a screen, he reached to adjust and re-center the mask.
Triplett missed his first two shots in the opening four minutes as the Falcons held a slim lead. After another miss, Triplett found the mark with just under two minutes left in the half, nailing a long 3-pointer from the wing in transition for his first basket and a 33-31 UT lead.
He connected again 40 seconds later, and when UT got the ball with the score tied and under a minute to play in the half, Triplett got open in the wing for another deep triple. His three baskets in the final two minutes of the half helped the Rockets to a 38-35 halftime lead.
Toledo led for the first 11 minutes of the second half, helped along by another 3-pointer from Triplett, who had scored a game-high 28 points in UT s 83-80 win over the Falcons at Savage Hall a month ago. When BG got back in front, a Triplett layup cut the Falcons lead to 65-62 with four minutes left, but he did not score the rest of the way.
Triplett, who had four steals and a blocked shot, went end-to-end to the basket in the closing seconds of the overtime, but his shot went hard off the glass and BG s Cory Eyink rebounded. UT fouled Eyink, and he hit both shots for the three-point win.
Joplin pointed to larger issues than Triplett s injury and his struggles with the mask as the Rockets lost a fourth straight game.
“I figured that it affected him a little bit, and that hurt,” Joplin said, “but we just didn t make the plays down the stretch that we needed to, whether it was a stop, a steal, or whatever. And that hurts.”
Triplett had his nose broken as he drove to the basket in the final seconds of the first half at Nevada. He got hit and lost the ball, but no foul was called on the play. Triplett was bleeding from the nose and did not play the rest of the night.
The Rockets had trailed by 10 at the half against Nevada, and managed to come back and tie the score in the closing minute without Triplett before losing 60-58 on a tip in at the buzzer. In a season-low 16 minutes at Nevada, Triplett finished with five points, equaling his season-low. Triplett has been the leading scorer in 19 of 25 games this season with 20 or more points in 13 MAC games, a conference best.