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Toledo hangs on to defeat Northern Illinois

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    University of Toledo guard Tre'shaun Fletcher (4) is fouled by Northern Illinois guard Eugene German (10) during Tuesday's game.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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  • SPT-UTMBB06-11

    University of Toledo guard Justin Roberts (5) drives past Northern Illinois guard Eugene German (10) during a MAC basketball game Tuesday at Savage Arena in Toledo. UT defeated NIU 82-77.

    THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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University of Toledo freshman Marreon Jackson scored Toledo’s last seven points and the Rockets survived a 30-point effort from the Mid-American Conference’s leading scorer Eugene German in an 82-77 win over Northern Illinois on Tuesday night at Savage Arena.

As Toledo and Northern Illinois battled back and forth in the second half, Luke Knapke hit a 3-pointer with 1:30 left and German matched it on Northern Illinois’ next possession to tie the score at 75 with 1:17 left.

On Toledo’s ensuing possession, Tre’Shaun Fletcher kicked the ball out to Jackson who nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner and gave Toledo a 78-75 edge with 54 seconds left.

PHOTO GALLERY: UT defeats NIU

German missed a contested layup next time down the court, Toledo secured the rebound, and Jackson calmly sank two free throws to give the Rockets an 80-75 lead with 28 seconds to play.

German then raced down the court and made a layup and was fouled by Fletcher. He missed the free throw, which Jaelan Sanford rebounded with 19 seconds left. Sanford was fouled, but missed both free throws.

German then missed a deep 3-pointer for the tie and Jackson made two more free throws to put the game away.

“He didn’t play well tonight, but I thought he made the plays when he needed to and he is just a guy that makes plays,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said of Jackson. “He is so confident and so tough. I thought he had some questionable shots in the first half. I thought in the second half, when he needed to step up and make plays, he did. There was no doubt in my mind that that left corner 3 was in. There was no doubt, because he does it every day.”

Sanford led Toledo (17-7, 9-2 MAC) with 22 points, Fletcher added 20 points, Knapke had 14, and Jackson chipped in with 13.

German was 14-of-29 from the field and 2-for-9 from 3 for his game-high 30 points, while Levi Bradley added 24 points for the Huskies (10-14, 3-8 MAC) on 10-of-15 shooting from the field.

“Wins like this are precious,” Kowalczyk said. “You don’t play well in the second half and you let them back in the game and then you still find a way to grind it out. I’ll tell you what, you have to give some credit to German and Bradley, because offensively they were tremendous tonight. We had some defensive mistakes and let them back in the game and didn’t start the second half very well. We gave them confidence and then our guys got a little bit of a deer in the headlights look in the second half. We lost our flow at both ends.”

Toledo trailed 8-5 early on before going on a 15-2 run over the next three minutes and 55 seconds to take a 20-10 lead with 10:37 left in the first half. During the run, Fletcher had a personal run of 11 straight points for Toledo with two 3-pointers, a 3-point play and a jumper.

Toledo would go on to lead by as many as 13 points in the first half after a Jackson 3-pointer gave the Rockets a 33-20 lead with 4:13 left.

Toledo then took a 40-28 lead into halftime.

“I think it just shows who we are and it builds character for our team,” Sanford said of the win. “I think grinding out a win like that is big-time for us and we have to stay together when we know teams are going to make runs and we were able to make runs as well. We stayed together and we did what we always do. Marreon made a bunch of huge plays for us at the end and that was the reason why we won. [Fletcher] had a great game and I think everyone contributed during the game and that is how we got It done.”

Northern Illinois came all the way back and took a five-point lead after a Bradley jumper capped off a streak of six straight made field goals for the Huskies and gave them a 56-51 edge with 10:12 left. Toledo was then helped by four straight free throws after a technical foul was assessed to Northern Illinois’ Noah McCarty and regained a 57-56 lead when Sanford made two free throws with 9:25 left. The rest of the game was back and forth until the final buzzer.

With the win Toledo matched its overall and conference win total from last season when the Rockets were 17-17 and 9-9 in the MAC. This year, with all of the early success, Sanford said the team expects to get its opponent’s best on every night.

“We know we have a target on our back,” Sanford said. “But we come out and do the same things we always do and stick to our principles that work for us. We stayed composed and we stayed together and it worked out for us.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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