Kent State rolled into Savage Hall last night as the Beast of the East.
The Flashes left thoroughly tamed by a University of Toledo team that is blooming late but, just maybe, starting to meet expectations.
The Rockets took it to the Mid-American Conference's East Division leaders, hitting their stride midway through the first half and never letting up en route to a 60-44 victory before 3,794 fans.
The loss was Kent's first in six conference road games, while UT won for the fourth time in its last six starts and improved to 12-9 overall and 5-8 in league play.
Toledo closed the first half with an 18-8 spurt and then outscored the Flashes 21-10 to open the second half and mount a 53-33 lead.
The Rockets produced plenty of balance at the offensive end with Florentino Valencia scoring 11 and Jonathan Amos 10 while Justin Ingram and Keonta Howell both added nine points.
UT made 21 of 40 shots (.525) and made one more free throw - 16 - than the Flashes attempted. Kent was whistled for 24 personals and had two players foul out.
Kent struggled to 38 per cent shooting, dragged down by a 3-of-17 effort from 3-point range.
Ingram, who sat much of the first half after picking up two early fouls, nailed a 3-pointer to open the second half and followed with a drive for a layup high off the glass.
Howell then hit a jumper before going to his left for a pretty drive that resulted in an old-fashioned, three-point play.
A couple of freshman then stood tall as Amos and Tyrone Kent contributed eight big points to fashion Toledo's 20-point lead.
The Rockets closed out the first half with probably their best 10-minute effort of the season at both ends of the floor.
UT made 10 of its last 12 shots and all but shut down the Kent attack to pull out of a 15-14 deficit and into a 32-23 halftime lead.
Post offense was again a big key for Toledo, but Valencia, who had scored in the 20s the last three games, got some help on this occasion as Jerrah Young came off the bench to carry the Rockets for a spell.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored on a layup, blocked a shot, and hit a little turn-around jumper to keep UT close.
After a layup by Anton Currie barely beat the shot clock, Young made a strong move from the free-throw line for a physical layup and then took a pretty feed from Amos for another that gave the Rockets their first lead at 16-15.
Young and Valencia combined for 17 points in the half while Young added a pair of blocked shots.
NOTES: Chester Taylor, UT's all-time leading rusher and now a running back for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, took in last night's game from press row. Kent now owns a half-game lead in the MAC East over Akron, which hosts Western Michigan tonight. The Flashes are 16-7 overall and 10-2 in league play. DeAndre Haynes scored nine points as no Kent player reached double figures. The win was No. 96 in MAC play for Toledo coach Stan Joplin, moving him into seventh place on the league's all-time list of wins in league play. UT plays host to Bowling Green Saturday at 7 p.m.
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