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Published: Tuesday, 3/4/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Coach rips Rockets after sloppy victory

UT nearly squanders 10-point lead

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — The chorus of critics to condemn the University of Toledo men’s basketball team in recent weeks is growing with each unflattering effort.

The pundits acquired a new member Tuesday. He denounced the Rockets as immature and selfish in their 73-69 heart stopping win at Central Michigan.

On a record-setting night in which he should have been grinning wide, Tod Kowalczyk was peeved. The fourth-year coach bristled when asked about his team’s claiming the outright program record for wins, calling the accomplishment “irrelevant at this point.”

“It’s not about 25 wins,” Kowalczyk said. “It’s about competing for a championship and doing it the right way and playing the right way. I’m more about the process and our process tonight was immature.”

Three days after Kowalczyk’s team pulled off a stunning comeback in the final three minutes of regulation to beat Western Michigan in overtime, it started to look like Toledo might empathize with the Broncos. UT saw a 10-point lead with three minutes left dwindle to two on a Chris Fowler layup with under a minute remaining. Fowler, who drew contact on the bucket, missed the free throw.

“That was bad on our part letting them back into the game,” said Justin Drummond, who sank two from the line to ice the game with 4.8 seconds left. “A couple mistakes, but we have time to correct it.”

Moments after Toledo capped off its sixth straight win over CMU, the Rockets got some good news. Or bad news depending on one’s outlook.

Buffalo’s loss at Akron means Toledo (25-5, 13-4) is assured of receiving no worse than the second seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament and will bypass three rounds to the semifinals. The Bulls losing however decreases the likelihood of UT, Buffalo, and Western Michigan finishing in a three-way tie, a scenario in which the Rockets would earn the top seed.

The clearest path to Toledo sitting on the top spot next week at Quicken Loans Arena now is for the Rockets to top Eastern Michigan in Saturday’s regular season finale and for Western Michigan to lose the same day at Central Michigan.

Drummond, who needed just eight shot attempts to get 15 points, scored a layup for his team’s final bucket before CMU’s late surge. J.D. Weatherspoon (17 points) led Toledo in scoring for the second time this year.

Julius Brown (12 points, four assists) hit twice from long range for UT.

The Chippewas, a team built on shooters, headed to halftime 1 of 10 from outside but trailed by a slim 37-32 margin. Kowalczyk ripped his team’s shot selection in the half.

“I don’t know if it was immaturity or selfishness,” he said. “Either one is bad at this time of the year.”

CMU responded to two UT empty possessions with a 3 for a four-point deficit with 2:10 left. Brown then missed a jumper from the right shoulder before Weatherspoon swatted Fowler at the rim for a key stop.

“He’s a heck of a scorer, so I knew he was going to take the shot,” Weatherspoon said.

Fowler (15 points, six assists) beat Weatherspoon on the next possession for an and-one but missed the free throw. The Chips had a turnover and a missed 3 on their next two possessions before John Simons made a layup to go down 71-69 with seven seconds left.

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



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