YPSILANTI, Mich. - The University of Toledo played an above-average half of basketball last night, just as it has several times this season.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, the good half followed a pretty bad one. And it wasn't enough to get a win.
UT fell 58-49 to Eastern Michigan at the Convocation Center, erasing a 15-point halftime deficit only to go cold late.
The Rockets held EMU to 26 percent shooting in the second half to inspire the comeback, but they scored just four points themselves in the final seven minutes of the game.
UT fell to 5-23, 3-10 in the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets fell into a tie for last place in the MAC West with the Eagles, who are also 5-23, 3-10.
"The first half we came out very flat," sophomore Justin Anyijong said. "Coach had to give us a pep talk to get us fired up. That shouldn't be what has to happen. We should have from the beginning come out and played hard."
Tyrone Kent led the Rockets with 20 points and Anyijong added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Despite EMU's poor record, the Eagles have perhaps the best pair of big men in the conference in Brandon Bowdry and Justin Dobbins. EMU went on a 18-2 run in the first half using the duo to its full advantage.
Dobbins and Bowdry got all three of the Rockets' big men in foul trouble early and had 13 of EMU's first 14 points. They combined for 10-of-12 shooting in the first half.
"They really took it to us that first half," UT coach Gene Cross said. "They got our guys in foul trouble. We were a half-step to a step slow, and they took advantage of it."
UT made 3 of its first 4 shots but then turned inept with 12 first-half turnovers and trailed 30-15 at the break. UT's 15 first-half points tied a season low, marking the third time the Rockets have scored that total in a half this year.
Cross indicated he used some unprintable words in the locker room at halftime.
"It was more about effort than anything," Cross said. "I challenged them to be better offensively, but mostly to come out with passion and fire."
UT quickly cut its deficit to eight to start the second half. Anyijong hit a 3 in the corner, Mohamed Lo converted a three-point play and Jonathan Amos got a bucket off a steal.
Helped by a full-court press, UT erased EMU's lead and went ahead 43-42 with nine minutes remaining on a Kent jumper.
After EMU regained the lead on an Antonio Green 3-pointer, Anyijong's tip in tied the score at 45 with 7:54 to play.
With seven minutes to play, Cross got his first technical foul of his head-coaching career for leaving the coaching box when arguing Lo's fourth foul.
"I was trying to stand up for my guys," Cross said.
EMU made just 2-of-4 foul shots on the possession, but forced a turnover and Zane Gay hit a 3 for a five-point Eagles lead. UT couldn't generate enough offense after that, and after its furious comeback, went quietly.
"We were a little gassed, and I thought maybe we got a little bit tight," Cross said. "We weren't
attacking aggressively. I've got to do a better job to make sure our guys are loose."
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