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No homecourt magic for UT

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The Savage Hall magic has worked for the University of Toledo quite often over the past five years. In the two previous home games leading into last night, the building's allure helped the Rockets take down two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference.

For several reasons, it didn't translate last night. The Rockets fell to Delaware 77-69 for their second home loss this year and just the seventh in the past five seasons.

The primary problem was that UT allowed the Fightin' Blue Hens to shoot 58.7 percent from the floor. Four players scored in double figures for UD and the Hens made 9 of 16 3-pointers.

"I think our defense was terrible tonight," senior Jerrah Young said. "We've done a lot better plenty of other times. For some reason tonight we couldn't get focused enough to stop our man from scoring."

UT dropped to 8-17, while Delaware improved to 12-15. UT is 1-4 in BracketBusters games.

In front of a crowd of 3,703, the loss snapped a seven-game home win streak for UT. The Rockets now have a week off before their next game, March 1, when they play host to Western Michigan.

Although the Rockets trailed most of the second half, they made what seemed like their trademark comeback at the midway point. But their main playmaker late in games in their last two home wins against Kent State and Ohio, Tyrone Kent, was not at full strength.

Kent tweaked his left hamstring at some point in the game and it worsened throughout the contest. He finally had to come out for good with two minutes to go and the Rockets down three.

"He had a cramp, or a pulled hamstring, I don't know which one it was," UT coach Stan Joplin said. "I think that really hurt. When he did that, I knew he wasn't going to be able to do very much."

Jonathan Amos led UT with 16 points and Young, Kent and Ridley Johnson all scored 12. Marc Egerson had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Delaware, including making 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

The Rockets might have relied on their normal excellence in Savage Hall a bit too much to start. They came out sloppy, airballing a 3-pointer and whiffing on an alley-oop, and fell down by five points quickly.

"At the beginning of the game, I got the sense that the players thought that because we were at home, we were going to win," Joplin said. "I tried to warn them against that."

Delaware has had similar shooting woes to the Rockets this year, coming in averaging 39 percent shooting. But in the first half they hit 64 percent of their shots to take a 41-40 lead at the half. Herb Courtney was 6-for-6 from the floor.

The Rockets shot 50 percent in the half, but let a five-point lead with four minutes left in the half evaporate.

"We weren't really concentrating on defense as we normally do and they had a lot of open shots," Johnson said. 'They just managed to hit a lot of open shots."

Delaware got out to an eight-point lead after halftime but UT pulled to within 63-60 with eight minutes left. The Hens went without a basket for nearly 5 1/2 minutes, but UT couldn't take advantage.

Amos made two key baskets to bring UT close, but he fouled out with a minute left. The Rockets were without their two leading scorers when they needed some points.

"We didn't play smart basketball going down the stretch," Joplin said. "We cut it to two and they come down and hit a wide-open 3. Defensively we weren't on the same page and I think that really hurt us."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

Mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.

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