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Published: Sunday, 12/3/2006

UT falls in overtime to Vandy

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

NASHVILLE The University of Toledo blew an eight-point lead in the second half and lost control of a five-point lead with less than 2 minutes left in overtime en route to dropping a 98-93 decision to Vanderbilt University last night at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Rockets wasted a 32-point performance by Keonta Howell, who was held scoreless by the Commodores in overtime.

Tyrone Kent hit the second of two free throws with 13 seconds left in OT to tie the score at 93-93, but Vandy s Jermaine Beal drove the lane for a basket, was fouled by Kashif Payne, and made the free throw for a 96-93 lead with 4.4 seconds to play.

Vandy came out red hot to open the second half, making its first four shots to slice UT s seven-point halftime edge to just 51-49.

But the Rockets weathered the storm, thanks to Howell, who hit a soft shot off glass and then made a pair of baseline pull-up jumpers, one from each side, to stretch UT s lead to 57-49.

Jonathan Amos then made a free throw and, one possession later, followed his own miss with a put-back basket and a 60-52 lead.

But right when it looked as though UT got a huge break, things started to go south for the visitors (2-4).

Vandy s leading scorer, Shan Foster, stole a pass with his team trailing by four and nothing but hardwood between him and the basket. Not only did he blow his dunk attempt but was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim.

Howell made both free throws, but Amos missed the front end of a one-and-one when he was fouled on the subsequent possession.

UT followed with a pair of turnovers and the Commodores answered with points. Howell and freshman Shane Ross hit treys for the Rockets, but UT became turnover and foul prone and Vandy fought back to within 68-65 on a three-point play by 6-foot-9 Ross Neltner.

Derrick Byars hit a 3-pointer and Neltner laced a layup to give Vandy it s first lead since midway through the first half at 70-69.

The Commodores went up by four, but Ingram hit a bomb for UT and Amos went the distance after picking up a loose ball and the Rockets were back ahead 76-75 with 3:25 to play.

Howell scored his 29th and 30th points on a baseline jumper and Valencia put back a rare Howell miss to put UT ahead 82-80 with 1:30 to play. Howell hit yet another shot on UT s next possession to give the Rockets an 84-82 lead.

Toledo got the last shot with the score tied 84-84, but Ingram was well covered on the perimeter, Valencia couldn t handle a pass inside, and when Tyrone Kent finally got the loose ball and put up a good shot, the refs ruled it came an instant after the final buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

UT opened with its best shooting half of the young season, hitting 18 of 33 for 54.5 percent. And the Rockets out-rebounded the Commodores, to boot, 22-16.

It added up to a 45-38 Toledo edge at the break with the Rockets owning the paint by a 24-8 margin as Valencia made 4 of 5 shots.

UT trailed 21-18 before Howell turned into a one-man wrecking crew. He drove the baseline for a short jumper, then hit consecutive 3-pointers, the first on a perfect drop pass from Ingram after the senior guard penetrated and drew two defenders. Howell then scored on a pretty scoop layup.

When Ingram followed with a 3-pointer, one of five by the Rockets in the first half, UT owned a 31-24 lead.

Valencia hit a pair of baskets down the stretch and Tyrone Kent beat the buzzer with a tip-in basket for the seven-point halftime lead.

NOTES: Vandy junior forward Alan Metcalfe, normally a starter, wasn t in uniform for last night s game because of a bone fracture in his left foot, but he shared a bond with UT s players. Metcalfe, from St. Helens, England, was a close friend of Rocket center Haris Charalambous, who died on Oct. 9 after collapsing during a preseason conditioning session. They were such good friends that Metcalfe took a brief leave from the Commodores to return to England for Charalambous funeral. The two were teammates from 2000-03 on both the Manchester Magic team in the England Senior League and as members of the England Junior National Team.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398



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