Toledo's Reese Holliday tries to get the ball to the hoop against Ohio University's Jon Smith, left, and Nick Kellogg during mens basketball quarterfinal Thursday night.
CLEVELAND — It was only a matter of time before Ohio University started hitting shots.
The Bobcats shook off a dismal shooting performance in the first half Thursday and erupted with an 11-0 run after halftime, knocking off the University of Toledo 65-57 in the quarterfinal round of the Mid-American Conference tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.
UT, trying to beat the Bobcats for the second time this season, never recovered from that barrage after halftime. It was UT’s fourth game in six days and likely its last of the season.
"We truly just didn't compete for about eight minutues," Kowalczyk. "We bounced back and made a run at them but it was too little too late."
Ohio moves on to play No. 2 Buffalo in the second of two semifinals Friday evening. Rivals Kent State and Akron will meet in the first after the fourth-seed Golden Flashes knocked off Western Michigan 76-72. This gathering of the top four seeds is what the MAC had in mind when it tweaked its format to award the top four teams in the regular season with byes to the semifinals and quarterfinals.
UT’s turnaround season, in which it improved its win total by 14, is over unless a postseason tournament comes calling. What hurt the Rockets on Thursday is what has hurt them in many of their losses. Their interior players didn’t rebound well, couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, and were non factors on the offensive end.
"Our interior play has to get better," Kowalczyk.. "This is a physical league and this league is allowed to play physical. ... We have to get bigger and stronger."
Curtis Dennis led UT with 17 points, and Reese Holliday chipped in with 12. Star guard Rian Pearson was held to just eight points on 2 of 7 shooting as he struggled facing taller defenders than normal.
"I couldn't do what I wanted to," Pearson said. "I think I got furstrated for a bit but I tried to keep my temamtes involved and try to do what I could do."
The best chance of UT mounting a comeback came after it cut its deficit from 14 to seven with about 8:30. Matt Smith began the mini rally with a 3-pointer and added a lay up a little later off of a feed from Julius Brown. From there, Ohio’s D.J. Cooper nailed a deep 3 with plenty of time left on the shot clock and Jon Smith followed with a tip-in on the Bobcats’ next possession. After Buckley drove for a UT basket, T.J. Hall hit another trey for OU to bump the lead to 58-45.
Toledo's Dominique Buckley is fouled on the way to the hoop.
Reggie Keely ripped off six straight points, the last coming on a dunk to go up 48-32 after his teammate Nick Kellogg picked Juice Brown’s pocket.
The first half was tough on the eyes, for a variety of reasons, the least of which isn’t the 23 fouls the teams combined for.
Five UT players picked up two fouls, including big men Matt Smith, Delino Dear (in three minutes) and Richard Wonnell.
The offensive numbers were gruesome as well. UT starters Reese Holliday, Matt Smith and Dominique Buckley put up four shots combined, and star guard Rian Pearson was 0 for 4.
The Bobcats corralled 12 offensive rebounds in the half which would have been more destructive had they not shot 8 for 30 (26 percent from the field). They missed 14 of their first 15 shots and scored eight field goals. Their eighth field goal of the second half came less than seven minutes into it.
UT won the rebounding battle 43-32 in the first meeting with OU, with 20 coming on the offensive glass. The Rockets grabbed only four offensive boards Thursday.
"The only two guys who really went were Reese and Rian," Kowalczyk said. "Matt Smith didn't go to the offensive glass tonight. He played 22 minutes and got one [defensive] rebound. Disappointed in his performance. He's our only real inside threat. We needed more out of him tonight."
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