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Published: 2/2/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

See-saw affair goes to Bobcats

Rockets fall in overtime; rematch 10 days away

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ATHENS, Ohio — The University of Toledo athletic ticket office opens for business at 8:30 a.m. Monday, and anyone wanting to see an exhilarating basketball game would be wise to attend the Feb. 12 matchup with Ohio.

If the sequel plays out anything like Saturday’s rollicking contest at the Convocation Center, tickets will be money well spent.

The Rockets lost 95-90 in overtime but can take a sliver of solace knowing they played a role in a milestone moment for the opposing coach.

“In my 25 years doing this, this was probably the most fun I’ve had at a basketball game,” said Jim Christian, who is not one to lapse into hyperbole.

Christian’s lying; his coaching career began 23 years ago. Forgive him, as a day filled with extreme momentum shifts, and too much exposure to Toledo’s Julius Brown, may have warped his memory.

This battle of Mid-American Conference title contenders was a game of spurts. OU had runs of 11-0 and 6-0, and three more of 9-0. UT countered with 12-0, 11-0, 8-0, and 6-0.

In the end, Brown could not conjure the magic he dispersed in the second half — and all season, for that matter — as his deep heave rimmed out with 10 seconds to go. Brown would have tied the game, just as he did with 15 seconds left in regulation on a 15-footer from the right shoulder.

Christian thought it was going in.

“He’s such a good player, if he had a good look it was going,” he said.

Christian’s buddy, Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk, was bracing for a second OT after Brown shook Stevie Taylor and uncorked from 25 feet.

“I thought he had a good look at it,” Kowalczyk said. “Yeah, I was surprised [he missed].”

Brown scored 20 of his 28 points after halftime, finishing one point beneath his career high while adding seven assists and five rebounds. If the junior guard is not the MAC player of the year at this point, the honor might belong to Ohio’s Maurice Ndour. The junior college import matched Brown’s 28 points — a career high — and collected 12 rebounds. Toledo’s J.D. Weatherspoon lost Ndour, a versatile 6-foot-9 forward from Senegal, for a dunk at the one-minute overtime mark for a 91-90 OU lead.

“I knew the guy guarding me wouldn’t play no defense,” said Ndour, who scored eight of OU's first 10 points.

Christian, sitting nearby, muttered under his breath.

“We play them again.”

The loss snaps Toledo’s six-game win streak, dropping the Rockets to 18-3 (6-2). They’ll host rival Bowling Green on Wednesday as part of the university’s “Tie One On” initiative.

With OU (16-5, 5-2) shooting 54 percent from the field, the Rockets have now allowed their last three opponents to make at least half of their shots. Western Michigan and Kansas are the others.

Although defense was the primary issue, the Rockets faltered offensively in key moments. Brown incurred a five-second call in overtime. Rian Pearson literally threw away a possession with a minute left in overtime when he inbounded wildly for Brown.

After both miscues, OU’s Taylor (23 points) scored at the other end.

Pearson, the two-time All-MAC forward had no positive impact, scoring four points on 2 of 9 shooting and sitting for long stretches in the second half. He apparently was among the Rockets Kowalczyk said “try to do too much” in big games. Also matching that description might be Justin Drummond, who fouled out at the end of regulation. Drummond, who had 12 points, turned in a listless first half, scoring one point.

“They were the better team down the stretch today and that’s why they won the ball game,” Brown said.

Kowalczyk made a wise coaching move midway through the second half, sticking with his reserves who, behind two Jonathan Williams 3s, rewarded their coach with an 11-point lead with nine minutes to go.

OU responded with three 3s over the next 90 seconds, continuing a game of “anything you can do, I can do better.”

“Unbelievable college basketball game,” Kowalczyk said. “The fans and ESPN certainly got their money’s worth.”

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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