Toledo takes down Valparaiso 75-72 in overtime for first win this seasonWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a gritty, physical game filled with several bumps, tumbles, stumbles and spills, the young Rockets overcame their mistakes at the end of regulation and hung on to defeat Valparaiso in overtime by a score of 75-72 in front of 4,078 at Savage Arena Dec. 11.
“It wasn’t always pretty, but I’m giving them a lot of credit for just gutting out a great win,” first-year Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I’m just very, very proud that they hung together. In the first half, I thought we competed and we played hard, but we didn’t play smart basketball, and the guys responded at halftime.”
Toledo (1-9, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) held a 63-61 lead with 42 seconds left, but senior forward Anthony Wright’s attempted pass to sophomore guard Malcolm Griffin on the right side was picked off in the air by Brandon Wood, who took the rock coast-to-coast and tied the game up with 26 seconds left. Following the Rockets’ timeout, the ball was put in Griffin’s hand for the last shot, which fell short of the rim and sent the contest to overtime. Despite the mistakes at the end of regulation, Toledo didn’t put its’ collective heads down and outscored Valparaiso 12-9 in extra time to pick up their first victory of the season.
“It feels great, man,” freshman guard Reese Holliday said. Holliday finished with a double-double, posting a team-high 16 points to go with his 10 rebounds. “First official college win; ain’t nothing like it.”
Sophomore forward Hayden Humes also had a double-double for the Rockets with 10 points and 14 rebounds, while Griffin finished with 14 points. Wright and freshman forward Delino Dear finished with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Toledo had 12 turnovers in the first half, but buckled down defensively and took care of the ball in the second half, only committing another five the rest of the way.
“Usually in this season, we’ve gotten stops, but we haven’t scored,” Wright said. “This game, we got consecutive stops and consecutive scores, and that got the team involved. I saw the bench going crazy. Fans got into it, and [that] was the first time this year that we really fed off the crowd.”
Valparaiso (6-4, 2-0 Horizon League) held an early 12-6 advantage less than four minutes into the game on the strength of Ryan Broekhoff’s scoring ability as the Australian guard was three-for-three from the field to start the contest, including two-for-two from beyond the arc. With the score 12-8 following a lay-in from Holliday, freshman guard J.T. Thomas was stripped on the Rockets’ next offensive possession, and a host of Toledo and Crusaders’ players tried to track the loose ball down the court, with Thomas ultimately coming up with it and calling a timeout at the 14:59 mark.
Wright hit a trey from the right wing and Dear got the and-one on his lay-in to tie the game at 16 and help ignite an 8-4 Rockets’ run by the 12:55 mark. However, a three-pointer from Jay Harris ended his team’s scoring drought and put the Crusaders back up 19-16 with 10:31 left on the clock as Valparaiso outscored Toledo 9-3 to go up 25-19 with 7:48 remaining in the half. Griffin’s lay-in at the 6:58 mark made it 27-21, but the Crusaders closed out the first half with a 9-7 scoring edge to lead 36-28 at the break.
In the second half, Cory Johnson went on a tear to start the period, outscoring Toledo 8-6 by himself to help extend Valparaiso’s lead to 44-34 with 16:58 left on the clock. Griffin responded by scoring seven of the Rockets’ next nine points to make it 49-45 by the 12:36 mark. After senior forward Justin Anyijong’s bucket cut the Crusaders’ lead to just 49-47, Toledo outscored Valparaiso 7-3 and took its’ first lead since the 19:36 mark of the first half when Holliday’s lay-in made it 54-52 with 6:35 left to play.
When the Crusaders tied it back up at 54, Wright nailed a three on the Rockets’ ensuing possession to put Toledo up 57-54 at the 4:31 mark. Johnson continued to be a thorn in the Rockets’ side as his jump hook it made it 59-58 with 2:08 to go in regulation. However, Toledo was able to overcome his game-high 25 points to hang on for the win.
“It was nice for guys in this game because you could see them step up and grow up and be able to just taste that win,” Wright said. “That was the biggest thing. The second biggest thing is this can’t be where guys stop going. We have to carry this on to next Saturday.”
The Rockets will be in Savage Arena again on Dec. 18 to take on Florida Gulf Coast (2-5, 0-2 Atlantic Sun Conference) at 7 p.m.