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Published: Sunday, 3/12/2006

Rockets notebook: Averages catch up to Valencia


CLEVELAND - Florentino Valencia's field-goal percentage in Mid-American Conference tournament games looked like a misprint.

Valencia's 71.4 shooting percentage in seven career tourney games coming into last night's title tilt against Kent State was a number most coaches could only hope for from their post players on the odd night. His high percentage was a big reason why the University of Toledo won 10 straight MAC games.

Valencia, a 6-foot-5 junior out of Chicago, made a season of eluding taller players in the post. He set a school record for field-goal percentage in conference play making 66.4 percent from the floor.

But in the Rockets' 71-66 loss, the law of averages finally turned on Valencia.

The Flashes paid extra attention to him. Each time Valencia touched the ball, two Kent State players rushed to his side.

"Everywhere I went there was a defender in my face," Valencia said. "I have to give it to them, they played hard, they played tough."

The Rockets couldn't get any inside game going with Jerrah Young either before Young left the game with a sore knee. They were forced to run their offense from the perimeter, and in their fourth game in sixth days that strategy wore them out early.

"It was definitely tough for Tino," point guard Kashif Payne said. "We weren't doing a lot of movement, nobody was cutting to the basket."

"We knew they were going to double-team because that's part of their package," UT coach Stan Joplin said. "He was getting frustrated because we wanted to pass the ball out, and if we were hitting jump shots it would be a different story."

Valencia finished with nine points and six rebounds on 4-of-9 shotting from the floor, a good percentage for most but disappointing to him.

"I could have done more for the team," he said. "I didn't rebound well as I could have, I let the team down."

HOWELL HURT: UT junior Keonta Howell separated his right shoulder sliding into a press table on the sideline with 57 seconds to play. He and Kent State's Mike Scott were diving for a ball in the corner on UT's side. Howell was called for a pushing foul on the play.

Howell has had problems with the shoulder for the past few seasons.

"I'm just happy that it went the whole year, because we were concerned, we thought he might have to have surgery," UT coach Stan Joplin said.

ALL-TOURNEY: The MAC all-tournament team included UT's Justin Ingram, Ohio's Mychal Green, and three Kent State players - Scott, Jay Youngblood, and Kevin Warzynski.

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