Led by horrendous first half shooting and assisted by atrocious rebounding, the University of Toledo Rockets dropped their 2nd straight home game in a 65-55 loss to the University of Illinois-Chicago. Toledo shot an unbelievable 28.6% in the first half, including 20% on 3 pointers.
Toledo didn't score until the 16:48 mark of the 1st half on a bucket by Jonathan Amos (12 pts on 5-15 shooting and 2-2 free throws). The Rockets closed to within 2 three times in the half, the last at the 13:23 mark. Meanwhile, UIC center Scott VanderMeer was taking up residence in the paint and challenging every shot. Credit his presence with a good portion of the shooting woes, as well as more than a few poor shot choices and being "out of control" while driving the lane.
To add to the troubles, UIC seemed to have 4 men in the paint on every rebound opportunity while the Rockets seemed content to hustle back on defense most of the night, and it showed in the stats. Toledo was outrebounded by an amazing 47-29 on the night. 19 of UICs caroms came off the offensive glass and resulted in a lot of put-backs.
On the positive side of the ledger, Toledo cut way down on their turnovers on this night, finishing with 12, a huge improvement over their last outing. UT head coach Gene Cross had said that reducing turnovers was going to be a priority, and it was apparent that the lessons were learned. UTs passing most of the night was much more crisp, cutters made sharp cuts and caught the ball in position.
Toledo also held an 8-5 lead in steals, led by Jonathan Amos' 5, as well as a 5-4 lead in blocked shots. That last number is much more important than it might appear at first. UICs VanderMeer stands all of 7 feet and 255lbs, and was able to challenge and alter a lot of shots. He finished with 3 blocks on the night. Still, the Rockets held their own against a pretty good sized team in that regard.
Coach Cross commented after the game that the improvement in the turnovers is great, but he'd rather have the win. "I don't think we were as aggressive as I'd like in the first half, to say the least. Four turnovers was good, but I'd rather have 6 turnovers and be a little more aggressive. The actual turnovers in the game, after having 22 in the last game, is a step forward. As it relates to the run, I'll always say there will always be fight in this dog. So we will always fight, and I'll always try to pull that fight out of them. We didn't fight in the first half, but I know it was in there somewhere. We have to fight for two halves, not one half. We did make a run at them…but it kind of got away from us."
Regarding the rebounding, Coach Cross said "roughed up is an understatement. It's absolutely unacceptable to get beat 18 on the boards. They're a really good team, they're physical and aggressive, and we didn't match their aggression at all. To fight the way we did against Houston, and them come out and basically lay an egg in the physicality department and the confidence department is unacceptable, and we'll fix that. Seems that there's one thing after another to fix…"
On the injury list, Ridley Johnson is out with a crack in his 2nd metatarsal and is expected to be out 1 ½ to 3 weeks, or as long as it takes for him to heal properly. He may be back in time for MAC play, but Cross said he will not jeopardize his health to hurry him back. "We want to make sure he's healthy as possible for the rest of his season and the rest of his life. He's been a little snake-bitten and I feel bad for him. To sit out just eats him up."
Rockets Fall to UIC
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