Toledo ice cold in 59-41 loss to AkronWritten by Mike Bauman | | email@example.com
On Feb. 5 at Savage Arena, the Rockets’ cold shooting matched the dreary weather outside as they fell 59-41 to Akron for their fifth-straight loss. Toledo shot just 31.9 percent from the floor in the contest, its’ worst shooting percentage since an 81-47 setback to Cincinnati on Dec. 4. The defeat dropped the Rockets to 4-19 overall and 1-8 in Mid-American Conference play, while the Zips improved to 13-10 (4-5 MAC).
“Tonight was clearly without question our worst performance of the year,” Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I take responsibility. We weren’t ready to play. To be honest, I saw it at two o’clock this afternoon. I saw it in [the] pregame meal.
“For whatever reason, this team lacks a personality of toughness, and it’s been difficult just trying to get them to play with emotion and play with a chip on their shoulder, and tonight we did none of that. None of it. Absolutely none of it.”
Toledo was led by sophomore guard Malcolm Griffin, who finished with a game-high 11 points. The Rockets struggled mightily on offense throughout the game, especially in the first 20 minutes of play. Toledo had just five points with 11:25 remaining in the first half, while Akron knocked down six three-pointers and shot 48.1 percent from the field.
“I think we came out real flat today,” Griffin said. “They were moving the ball and hitting a lot of open 3’s. They just came out ready to play with a lot of fight in them tonight. Coach [Kowalczyk] told us to come out and play our hardest the first five minutes of the game, and we didn’t do that, and they did that and took advantage of it and that’s what got them the W tonight.
“We haven’t given up yet. We’ve got to keep playing [as] hard as we can. It’s not March yet.”
The first half could not have gone any worse for the Rockets. It started with Akron opening up an early 9-2 lead by the 17:18 mark on the strength of three treys, two of which came from Toledo native Darryl Roberts. By the media timeout with 11:38 remaining, Toledo piled up more turnovers than points, trailing 13-5 as it committed seven turnovers. The Zips, meanwhile, built a 26-9 lead by the 6:57 mark and were shooting six-of-12 from three-point range.
Despite the offensive issues, the Rockets did go on a 9-6 run from that point for the 32-18 score at halftime. However, Toledo shot just seven-of-24 from the field in the first 20 minutes of play and committed 10 turnovers. Fifteen of Akron’s first half points came off of the Rockets’ miscues, and Toledo got zero bench points as it scored its’ lowest first half point total in MAC competition this season.
“They haven’t given up,” Kowalczyk said. “They’re good guys that do care. We lack a lot of things with this team, let’s be honest. A lot of things. We lack confidence. Maybe I’ve been too hard on them; maybe I’ve been too nice on them. I don’t know.”
The second half wasn’t much better for the Rockets as they continued to struggle offensively, shooting just eight-of-23 from the field. The Zips, meanwhile, continued to knock down shots from beyond the arc, going five-for-10 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes of play. Akron led by as many as 23 as it cruised to the 18-point victory.
“We’re awfully banged up,” Kowalczyk said. “We played on Thursday, so yesterday we really couldn’t practice. We did some walkthrough and shot a little bit, and watched film. Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe we need to have a two-hour practice and go at it hard. I don’t know what the answer is. We’re going to search and find the answer, that’s for sure.”
While Toledo did compete just two days prior on Feb. 3 in an 81-58 loss at Buffalo, Kowalczyk made no excuses for his team’s poor performance against the Zips.
“The fact that we played on Thursday was dead wrong to begin with, but that’s the cards you’re dealt with and it’s not an excuse. We need to play harder.”
The Rockets will be in action again Feb. 9 when they travel to Athens, Ohio to take on the Bobcats (11-12, 4-5 MAC) at 7 p.m.