Rockets sophomore Justin Anyijong blocks a shot attempt by Western Michigan's LaMarcus Lowe. But Toledo quickly fell behind 25-2 and has now lost its last 23 of 24 road games.
Mike Farrell / Kalamazoo Gazette Enlarge
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Two Mid-American Conference games for the University of Toledo, two losses in games decided in the first 10 minutes.
The Rockets fell last night to Western Michigan, 70-52, in a game remarkably similar to their game at Northern Illinois last weekend.
In that one, the Rockets were down 15 midway through the first half. In this one, UT fell behind 25-2 to start the contest and never got any closer than 12 points thereafter.
It was the ninth straight loss for the Rockets (2-14, 0-2), the second-longest in school
In trying to explain afterward why his team has come out so poorly in many of its losses this season, UT coach Gene Cross said the team lacks vocal leadership.
"I think it all boils down to somebody other than the coach taking the reins of the team and saying, come on guys, let's go," Cross said. "We have been fever-
ishly trying to find and figure out who our vocal leader is on this team. Somebody has to step up, I don't care who it is.
"I shouldn't be the most competitive, the most vocal guy on the sidelines. I have to try to manufacture it, but leadership isn't manufactured, it's just in you sometimes."
The Rockets brought just seven rotation players with them to University Arena. Senior Anthony Byrd did not make the trip because of an academic problem Cross said developed in the last week or so.
"Hopefully he'll have that squared away and when we get back, he'll be back," Cross said. "If not, he won't."
WMU junior David Kool started things off by making three 3-pointers in the first three minutes. Justin Anyijong hit a jumper for UT to answer Kool's first 3, but then the Rockets missed their next nine shots and mixed in six turnovers. The Broncos (5-10, 2-0 MAC) weren't perfect but they ran in waves of players to maintain their energy level.
"We came out flat," Anyijong said. "They were very physical with us, they got that edge. They threw a lot of bodies at us. They kept it coming every time we would fight back."
Tyrone Kent finally ended the Broncos' run by making two
3-pointers, but the hole was far too deep. UT has now lost 23 of its last 24 road games.
"It bothers me the way we start off games, especially on the road," Cross said. "Almost like a deer in headlights. I wish we could go and practice at an off-campus site so I could duplicate us not being at home. Maybe I'll take us to the rec center. I'm going to do something to make sure we don't get jumped like we have the last two games."
Kent led UT with 17 points and eight rebounds and Jonathan Amos added 13 points. Four UT players played at least 35 minutes, with freshman Larry Bastfield making his first start and going all 40 minutes. Bastfield came into the game averaging just 13 minutes per contest.
"I was actually impressed with Larry," Cross said. "That gives me hope and it gives me the idea that he's getting better. Hopefully he can build on this."
Demetrius Ward led four WMU players in double figures with 14 points.
Broncos coach Steve Hawkins met Cross in the hallway in between interviews and told him to hang in there.
"You've got to hope that they are able to pick up something by going through a season like this," Hawkins said of the Rockets. "It's painful to watch and I hate to see it happen."
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