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Published: Sunday, 1/20/2008

Rockets dial long distance, but lose local touch


KALAMAZOO, Mich. - After the first few University of Toledo 3-pointers, the Western Michigan bench became a flurry of activity as the Broncos scrambled to change their game plan.

The Rockets never stopped hitting from outside. But anything closer, and UT might as well have been flinging it from half court.

WMU beat the Rockets 75-62 yesterday at University Arena for UT's 11th straight road loss. Although UT made a season-best 11 3s at a 48 percent clip, only 21.6 percent of its two-point attempts made it in.

"I thought we took some difficult shots that really hurt," UT coach Stan Joplin said. "And I think that becomes a little bit contagious."

The Rockets, who fell to 5-11 and 2-2 in the Mid-American Conference, trailed the entire game. Solid, if a bit foul-prone, defense and minimal turnovers allowed UT to stay fairly close for the majority of the con-test, but the Rockets just couldn't convert enough shots.

Tyrone Kent was just 5-of-20 and Jonathan Amos connected on 5 of 16 shots. Forward Jerrah Young, coming into the game scoring 9.5 points, had just two points off free throws and was 0-of-4 from the field.

"We had a lot of shots, open jump shots, they just weren't falling," junior Ridley Johnson said.

WMU, at 9-8 and 3-1 in the MAC, is the only team with a winning record in the West division. Sophomore David Kool made four 3s and scored 16 points.

The Broncos started the game 0-of-6 from 3-point land but hit its next five. WMU had a 14-point lead late in the first half, sagging in on Young and contesting every jump shot near the lane.

But the Rockets fought back with three straight 3s, going into the locker room down five. UT hit six 3s in the first half, the same amount it averages in a game.

"Toledo punched us back, they really came back at us strong before halftime," WMU coach Steve Hawkins said.

Just 1 1/2 minutes into the second half, the deficit was again double digits for the Rockets, and they never came closer than six points after that. Kool made a 3-pointer to start the half for the Broncos and point guard Michael Redell attacked the basket and got a layup.

"We talked and said let's try to bounce back, but we weren't able to," Johnson said.

Kent led the Rockets with 18 points and Johnson had 16, making 4 of 6 3-pointers.

Although Young was not productive offensively in front of the crowd of 4,157, he held WMU senior Joe Reitz to three points in the first half. But Reitz scored 13 in the second, and Young had a season-low two rebounds.

"He let their big guys off the hook defensively by not being aggressive," Joplin said. "It just seemed he was out of sync."

WMU wasn't expecting the Rockets to make so many 3s, but other parts of its game plan worked well. Even though UT had only 11 turnovers, the Broncos scored 11 points off them.

The Broncos shot 32 free throws, with 12 coming in the final four minutes.

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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