Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Rockets post road win against E. Illinois

CHARLESTON, Ill. — The University of Toledo men’s basketball team led from start to finish Saturday to post its first road win of the season with a 67-59 victory at Eastern Illinois.

Rian Pearson led a Rocket attack that saw four players score in double figures with 22 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Dominique Buckley tallied 13 points and four assists, while Matt Smith and Julius Brown scored 10 points apiece. Brown also dished out a team-high five assists.

“We did some good things defensively tonight and it was a nice road win for us,” coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I don’t think we played nearly as well as we did in our last two games at Cleveland State or Detroit, and a game like this shows us that we have areas we still need to work on.”

Alex Austin topped the Panthers with 21 points while Josh Piper contributed 17 points.

The Rockets shot a season-high 59.1 percent, including 64 percent in the second half, and limited the Panthers to 36 percent shooting.

Toledo (3-6) started strong and opened a 16-7 advantage just over six minutes into the game. Austin and Piper then combined to hit four straight 3-pointers to make it a two-point contest at 23-21 with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in the half.

UT held the Panthers scoreless the rest of the way to take a 26-21 lead into the intermission.

UT looked ready to put the game away early in the second half when Pearson converted a three-point play at the 15:42 mark to give the Rockets a 38-25 advantage. Toledo maintained a sizable cushion until Austin’s 3-point bomb pulled the Panthers (3-8) within 56-51 with 5:52 remaining.

Toledo came up with key baskets down the stretch, though, as Buckley and Brown hit shots as the shot clock was expiring. Pearson put the final nail in the coffin with a baseline jumper for a 65-59 lead with 51 seconds left.

“We wanted to score at the end of the shot clock late in the game, and I thought we really executed our offense well down the stretch,” Kowalczyk said.

Toledo will now take a break for finals before returning to action Dec. 18 for an exhibition contest vs. Siena Heights. Tip-off from Savage Arena is set for 7 p.m.

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