Playing what coach Gene Cross called a "very complete game" was what it took for the University of Toledo men's basketball team to snap its nine-game losing streak.
The Rockets beat Eastern Michigan 69-57 last night at Savage Arena in their Mid-American Conference home opener, capturing their first win since early December. UT held EMU without a field goal for the last nine minutes of the first half and went on a 15-0 run in the second half that decided the game.
The Rockets improved to 3-14, 1-2 in the MAC. They did it by shooting 62 percent after halftime, outrebounding the Eagles (3-14, 1-2), and committing a season-low 11 turnovers.
"We attacked the basket and played to our strengths," Cross said. "When you have 16 assists on 22 baskets, that's indicative of playing a team game.
"I'm just really happy for everybody in that locker room."
In front of a crowd of 6,084, sophomore Justin Anyijong led UT with a career-high 17 points and five rebounds. Tyrone Kent added 13 points and Jonathan Amos had 12. It was the Rockets' first victory since the Savage Arena home opener on Dec. 3 against Massachusetts.
"It feels really good," Anyijong said. "It's been a long time coming, going on the road, coming back. We're going to be happy about it but then we have to focus and come back because we've got Central Michigan on Tuesday."
The contest was close in the first half with EMU initially outrebounding UT and getting second-chance points. With four minutes remaining in the first half UT took a 26-22 lead on an Anyijong layup. The Rockets then turned it over five straight times, once on an inbounds play and three times in transition. EMU couldn't do anything with the extra opportunities, though, and UT had its third halftime lead of the year.
"[At halftime] I emphasized to our guys that the only way we're going to beat them is if we matched them physically," Cross said. "We came out and really attacked the glass in the second half."
Early in the second half, EMU tied the game at 27 with two free throws by Brandon Bowdry and the Rockets had to call a timeout after being unable to inbound the ball. But the Rockets got their lead back on a Kent jumper and Anyijong 3-pointer.
Freshman Larry Bastfield started the run with a layup off a steal. Anyijong scored six straight points and the Rockets took a 12-point lead with 11:11 remaining, forcing EMU to call a timeout. Out of the break Bastfield forced a five-second count on EMU's L.J. Frazier. Anyijong and Kent followed the defensive effort up with baskets to give UT a 48-31 advantage.
"We've lost a couple games where guys didn't let up on us," Bastfield said. "We wanted to keep pushing the tempo and put them to the ground."
Bastfield started his second straight game for UT. After a 40-minute outing against Western Michigan, he played 39 minutes last night and had five rebounds and five assists.
"I thought Larry did a really good job of being a calming factor out there for us," Cross said.
The Rockets also received a boost from two players returning from injury. Senior Ridley Johnson returned from a foot injury that kept him out six games to score six points. Freshman Zac Taylor, a Clay graduate, had six points in his first game since the Nov. 26 game against West Georgia after missing time with knee problems.
"I give it up to Zac and Ridley," Bastfield said. "Some practices we only had nine players and they felt bad, but we knew we needed them healthy so they can help us. You saw how they can really help us."
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