Rockets Fall Short vs NIU

The University of Toledo men's basketball team lost a heart-breaker last night 58-54 at Savage Arena before a crowd of 3556. The Northern Illinois Huskies came into town with a 7-8 overall record and 3-0 in the MAC while UT presented 3-14 and 0-3 credentials. Read on for a full recap of the game.

Toledo, OH - The University of Toledo men's basketball team lost a heart-breaker last night 58-54 at Savage Arena before a crowd of 3556. The Northern Illinois Huskies came into town with a 7-8 overall record and 3-0 in the MAC while UT presented 3-14 and 0-3 credentials. UT was hoping to break a 7 game losing skid and to also gain their first conference win. UT was denied both largely due to extremely poor three point field goal shooting and overall poor shot selection.

For the first time this year the Rockets started strong and held the early lead at 10-2 on a lay-up by Josh Freelove at the 14:44 mark. The crowd was on their collective feet and hopes were high that UT would turn in a solid performance and get in the MAC winning column. UT extended their lead to 16-5 on a 3 pointer by Jake Barnett at 11:05. That was the Blue and Gold's high water mark. A forty minute solid performance was simply not to be as the level of play disintegrated and NIU hustled and caught the Rockets at 19 apiece on a jumper by Sean Kowal at the 4:44 split. The Huskie comeback was fueled by UT's inept 3 point shooting. This six minute UT dry interval was marked by 3 missed Justin Anyijong 3 pointers and several UT turnovers. However, Anyijong was one of the few bright spots for UT as he recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

UT found themselves up 25-22 at the half despite very poor shooting. NIU shot even worse than UT, a paltry 10-26 (38%), for the first 20 minutes. No NIU player had more than 6 (Xavier Silas) points at the half. The Rockets were led by Malcolm Griffin's 8 points.

Once again UT floundered coming out of the break. UT scored their first 2 points on a jumper by Anyijong at the 17:20 mark for a 27-26 lead. The score then went back and forth for the next 14 minutes of play until NIU gained some separation, 54-46, at the 2:27 juncture. Visions of victory at home were quickly drifting away for UT fans but the Rockets rallied scoring 5 quick points in succession on two free throws by Barnett and a 3 pointer by Anyijong. However, the Rocket fuel was spent and UT couldn't get any closer despite playing hard right to the finish. The Rocket's coaching staff made many situational line-up changes in the last 2 minutes trying to gain offensive and defensive advantages depending on ball possession and game situation breaks. However, all proved to no avail as NIU maintained their lead and closed out the Rockets by 4 points.

Overall UT shot 19 -53 from the floor for 36% while also hitting only 5-23 from beyond the arc. Jake Barnett and Anyijong forced some ugly 3 pointers that were very low percentage attempts. Barnett also seemed to be forcing the dribble drive too much and picked-up his 3rd personal at 19:12 of the 2nd half and was forced to sit until 13:42. The Rockets were still only down by 1 at this mark but the lack of Barnett's stabilizing presence was noticed.

Overall, UT shot 11 – 16 from the line for an improved percentage of 69%. However, the 16 attempts were far below the 25 for NIU. NIU finished 16-25 from the line. Therefore, the game was basically won at the line. UT has been out-shot this year at the line 333-289. UT also has basically the inverse ratio of their opponents in assists (188 - 276) and turnovers (265-178).

Four Rockets finished in low double figures (Anyijong 11, Griffin 13, Barnett 10, & Freelove 11). The 11 points were a career high for Josh Freelove. Mouhamed Lo finished with 3 points for his third consecutive low scoring effort (3, 0, & 9).

The Rockets next game is Saturday Jan. 23 at 2:00 against the Western Michigan University Broncos in Kalamazoo, Mi.



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