YPSILANTI, Mich. - Sammy Villegas' shooting touch has been missing in action since the Toledo men's basketball team opened Mid-American Conference play.
Haris Charalambous has been missing, period.
Last night, both made key contributions for the Rockets in a 70-59 victory over Eastern Michigan that marked just the second road win in league play this season for UT.
Justin Ingram tied his career high with 23 points, going 11-for-11 from the free throw line, but a lot of his help came from previously dry holes.
To review, Villegas scored 15 points - his third double-figure performance in a four-game stretch - in a non-league game against East Carolina in late December. He had not scored more than eight points in a game since and was shooting 32 per cent from the floor, including 26.7 percent from 3-point range, since conference play began.
The senior answered last night with four 3-pointers and moved into second place on UT's all-time career list with 231 treys.
The Rockets jumped to a 12-2 lead as four players opened by hitting 3-pointers.
Villegas had one of them and added two more during the first half.
In the second half, Villegas scored two straight baskets to put the Rockets ahead by 18 points at 45-27. On the first, he rebounded a missed EMU free throw, took the ball the length of the court and scored on a pretty, pull-up bank shot from the left side. On UT's next possession, he buried a monster 3-pointer.
"It's about time, isn't it?" Villegas said. "I'd been down. I hadn't been playing a lot, but the coaches told me my time would be coming. I'd been feeling it in practice, so when I got in tonight I was aggressive. There were four [regular-season] games left in my career. Now, it's three. I might as well have some fun and try to go out with a bang."
Villegas finished with 14 points as the Rockets had just two players in double figures. Keonta Howell, who hit a pair of 3-pointers, added nine points.
Ingram's hottest stretch came with three straight baskets, two of them fast-break layups, late in the first half that gave UT a 28-21 lead.
He added assists on Toledo's next two baskets as Charalambous, who did not play in four of the last five games and who had not scored a point in almost one month, finished both plays with power layups to give the Rockets a 32-21 halftime lead.
"I caught a couple really nice passes from Justin," Charalambous said. "I was in the right place at the right time."
UT continued to get points inside as Jerrah Young hit back-to-back baskets to open the second half as the Rockets began to pull away.
Mostly, though, UT's big men were asked to make things physical and tough on EMU senior John Bowler at the defensive end. They did just that, sending the Eagles' 6-9 standout to the free throw line 24 times. He made a career-high 17 of them en route to a 29-point, 15-rebound night.
"We knew he's a big offensive threat and we knew it would be physical," Charalambous said. "All three big guys were needed. We didn't exactly shut him down, but I guess he had to earn all those points."
NOTES: Tino Valencia's streak of 13 straight starts in the post ended as Young got the nod from coach Stan Joplin. ... EMU (6-18, 2-13 in MAC) had two players suspended last night for violations of team policy. Gino Smith and Chris Knaub had combined for 30 starts this season. ... One Rocket fouled out and four others finished with four personals. ... EMU's Carlos Medlock, a freshman guard, had averaged 19.7 points in the previous four games. UT's defense held him to two points while forcing six turnovers. ... The first time the teams met, Eastern had 25 turnovers and UT had 15 steals. Last night it was 24 and 14. ... The last time UT (14-10, 7-8) won four straight league games was from Jan. 14-22, 2004. ... EMU did not score a field goal in the first 8:28 of action and had a similar second-half drought of 7:48.
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