There was no shortage of blame to be spread after a confounding defeat at home to a team that ranks among the lowest in the country.
University of Toledo’s starting backcourt turned in an anemic effort, making just 2 of 16 shots from the field. An official seemed to blow a call at a key moment. And, depending which team you ask, that official should not have been working the game amid a dispute about which school was charged with assigning the officiating crew.
But blame Tod Kowalczyk, too. The coach insisted so after a 58-53 setback Monday to Chicago State, a team that outplayed Toledo down the stretch in the Rockets’ final test before Mid-American Conference games begin.
"I fully take 100 percent responsibility for this," Kowalczyk said. "We took the pedal off a little bit. We played a little bit slower than we wanted to. Our philosophy was, ‘The shots aren’t falling, let’s make the extra passes, and let’s try to get to the foul line more.’ When looking back on it, we should have kept the pedal on, and that’s my fault."
Two days after a 19-point dusting of Illinois-Chicago, Toledo’s lethargic start foreshadowed an afternoon in which the Rockets shot a season-low 31 percent from the field. Perfection from the free-throw line — an astounding 20 for 20, a program record — marked the only reliable offense.
So Kowalczyk implored his players to be more deliberate. Bad decision, according to his hindsight.
"We gave up a good [shot] to get a great one," Kowalczyk said. "At times it worked, but looking back at it for the game, I think it was a mistake."
Chicago State (4-12) pocketed its second win against a Division I opponent largely because its players made buckets at key moments. Jamere Dismukes, a 35 percent 3-point shooter coming into the day, knocked down three of his five 3s during a spurt at the end of the second half, turning a seven-point deficit into a tie game with 3 minutes, 17 seconds to go. His step-back baseline jumper — this one a two-point field goal — widened CSU’s lead to 54-51 with less than a minute left.
"We weren’t shooting up with high hands and getting to the shooter and talking enough on defense," Toledo’s Rian Pearson said. "I think we should have been talking more."
Dismukes, who had two points at halftime, finished with a game-high 19 points. Matt Ross added 12 points.
A lousy performance against a team that ranks 325 in the latest RPI is not likely to be one Kowalczyk analyzes deeply. Guards Julius Brown (1 for 11) and Dominique Buckley (1 for 5) combined for nine points, and Rian Pearson contributed 14 points but required as many shots to get there.
Any hope to avoid the first home loss of the year flatlined with a Brown missed layup with 16 seconds to go and UT trailing by three. Kowalczyk’s body language indicated he thought Brown was fouled.
"We had a couple key things go against us late in the game," Kowalczyk said.
OFFICIATING CONFUSION: Two officiating crews arrived for work, creating confusion. Chicago State assigned a crew that typically works for its league, the Great West. Toledo believed that it was responsible for appointing officials, and thus three from the Summit League — which uses the same pool of officials as the Mid-American Conference — arrived for work. Ultimately they were sent home and the Great West crew called the game.
"They were not going to play the game unless we used their officials," Kowalczyk said.
Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy offered a competing explanation.
"I didn’t tell them anything," Dildy said. ... "That’s not who we are. We [traveled] too far. We wouldn’t have done that."
Kowalczyk said the contract between the schools states Summit League officials were to work the game.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.