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Published: Saturday, 1/3/2009

Turnovers continue to plague Rockets

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

There are two ways to look at every game.

In the University of Toledo's 77-63 loss to Dayton last night at Savage Arena, Rockets coach Gene Cross lamented mental lapses and turnover problems as his squad's downfalls. In Dayton coach Brian Gregory's view, the difference was the Flyers' depth that wore down the shorthanded Rockets.

There's only one way to look at UT's record - 2-11, the worst start in 54 years. The Rockets trailed the 13-1 Flyers the entire second half.

"We've got to figure out how to fight through certain mistakes," Cross said. "It gets compounded. We make one mistake and we compound it with another and another."

UT had 18 turnovers, 15 in the first half. Marcus Johnson led Dayton with 21 points, including several key 3-pointers.

For UT, Jonathan Amos led the way with 23 points and sophomore Justin Anyijong had 16 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs.

The Rockets started out well, making five of their first seven shots to take an 11-9 lead. An Anyijong 3-pointer put UT up 24-19 with less than six minutes remaining in the first half.

Then the Rockets seemed to run out of gas. Dayton went on a 13-1 lead to take a seven-point advantage with three minutes left in the half. Rob Lowery made two 3-pointers during that time to stretch the Flyers' lead. Dayton went right at the Rockets because four of UT's nine rotation players had two fouls each in the opening half.

Ten players logged at least nine minutes for Dayton. UT is currently down to eight scholarship players because of injuries.

"I really think fatigue set in a little bit," Gregory said.

After leading by nine at the break, Dayton scored the first six points of the second half, all that was needed to make sure it would leave with a victory. UT made one burst, a 12-2 run helped by two Anyijong 3's, to cut the lead to five and force Dayton to take a timeout at the 12:39 mark. Out of Dayton's timeout Johnson made a 3-pointer in the corner, and he followed it up with another 3 off a UT turnover.

"It all boiled down to lack of communication," Cross said. "They get the ball down the floor very quickly and we were sprinting back to the paint, but when you do that you have to recognize their primary threats from behind the arc. If Marcus Johnson is their primary 3-point threat, then we've got to get out on him. You can't stand and watch him shoot."

Anyijong matched Johnson with four 3s. The sophomore was 2-of-8 from 3-point range coming in.

"My teammates and coaches tell me I'm too good of a shooter not to be aggressive on the

offensive end," Anyijong said. "They asked me to come into the game with a scorer's mentality."

The crowd of 6,921 was about half Dayton fans, with a walk-up crowd of 800. Gregory, a UT assistant under former coach Stan Joplin in Joplin's first season, brought Dayton into Savage Arena for the first time in 25 years.

"I'm going to be honest, I wish [Joplin] was still coaching here," Gregory said. "It's sad, all he's done for this school, but I understand it's a business. One of the reasons we scheduled this game was because of me and Stan. I probably wouldn't have come and played here [otherwise]."

With one game remaining until Mid-American Conference play starts, the Rockets are trying to stay positive.

"We're better than the record indicates, I know that," Amos said. "These big games are making us better, getting us prepared for MAC play."

NOTES: Freshman Clayton Sterling made his first start. ... Freshman Emeka Okafor Jr. was not on the UT bench. After the game Cross said Okafor is "probably not going to be with us."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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