Toledo: Jonathan Amos, Tyrone Kent, Ridley Johnson, Corey Bingham, Jerrah Young
UIC: Spencer Stewart, Josh Mayo, Scott VanderMeer, Karl White, Jr., Jermaine Dailey.
For UIC, 5-foot-11 Josh Mayo is averaging 18 points a game, but that number jumps to 28 points at the UIC Pavilion. UT s strength is perimeter defense and it will be put to the test tonight with Mayo.
VanderMeer is going to be a challenge. He is prone to playing good one game and off the next, though, and in his last game he had 13 and 7.
The Rockets spent nearly an hour at practice Tuesday working on getting the ball in bounds underneath its own basket. Against UMass they had to throw the deep ball on nearly every play, and it was often treacherous.
Freshman Nate Florence is suited up for the first time after sitting out a year. At practice he looked pretty confused, but that doesn t mean he won t play. He was matched up against Jonathan Amos, if that gives you an idea of what position he plays.
Also coming out of practice yesterday was that Terrance Tubbs will not become eligible to play this year. The team is still appealing for him to be on scholarship and practice. Paul Becklens will not play or practice this year, but he is on scholarship. Despite not having books for some of the semester, I m told that Tubbs fared pretty well in the classroom, close to a 3.0.
Looks like my view is going to be obstructed during the game because my seat is right behind where coach Stan Joplin will be pacing. Oh well, I m sure I ll hear some funny comments.
Halftime: 32-25 UT
This is the Rockets first halftime lead on the road. It happened because UT played good defense, Tyrone Kent started heating up in front of his fans and hey, I ll give the third reason to Anthony Byrd. He has five points on two shots and is a steadying hand for the Rockets.
Josh Mayo has just six points, and he didn t score until five minutes remained in the half. UT put Bingham, Byrd and Amos on him at different stretches.
Karl White started out on Kent and forced him into a few bad passes, but then White subbed out for a while and Kent had no problems the rest of the half. He has 13 points, with three 3 s.
VanderMeer looks pretty sharp, and he has three steals on defense.
UIC switched to zone after the eight-minute timeout. Odd considering UT was doing its best work from the outside. On the second possession against it, Kent hit a 3. Then UIC forced a few turnovers, and switched back to man.
Ever seen half an arena break out in the Soulja Boy dance? I have. Now I m watching a drum line performance. It s awesome.
The first inbounds under the basket pass deep to Byrd. Byrd almost collided with Jerrah Young for the pass.
At about the four minute mark I felt UT was about to have a letdown before the half, when Mayo looked like he was going to get going. But the Rockets have been in that situation before twice now and know how to respond. They rode it out and scored the last five points of the half.
Final: 66-56 UIC
That was a stinker of a second half defensively for the Rockets. Pretty much opposite from the first half. Mayo was getting lots of open looks, and boy, he is a sweet shooter.
UIC was denying UT inside looks and the Rockets fell cold from the outside in the second half. Once UIC took the lead, the game got away from UT very quickly. The Rockets did get it back to four with three minutes left, but then didn t make another basket.
UIC just seemed to have a lot more energy in the second half and the Rockets had very little.
Joplin said again afterward that he needs his players to fight through being tired. There aren t many players that I ve seen who are still good when they re very tired. The tendencies are to play out of control and not have the legs for jump shots. UT has some very good athletes so maybe at one point this year they will be able to do what Joplin asks.
Thanks for reading, I m on vacation for the next week but will be back for the Oakland game. I watched the Oakland-Michigan game on the Big Ten Network last week, and boy do they have some chuckers. But many games, they get it to go in.