Toledo’s men’s season ends in loss to OhioWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
CLEVELAND — The Rockets’ 2012 campaign came to a close on March 8 with a 65-57 loss to Ohio in the third round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“It was a disappointing loss for us,” UT head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “The first half we didn’t play particularly well but I thought we grinded out, defended and did some really good things. The start of the second half we truly just didn’t compete for about the first eight minutes and then we bounced back and made a run but it was too little too late.”
With the loss, the seventh-seeded Rockets finish the season with an 18-16 record. Their 12-win improvement from last season’s 4-28 team is the second-largest improvement this year behind only USC-Upstate which racked up 15 more victories than in 2011. The No. 3 seed Bobcats (25-7) will move on and play No. 2 Buffalo at 9:30 p.m. March 9.
“I’m disappointed we left some out there, losing six games on our final possession,” Kowalczyk said. “I think that being a young team with eight scholarship guys it has been a great learning experience for us and I think it has been a step in the right direction. We have clearly the best freshman in the league in Juice Brown and Rian Pearson is one of the best players in the league as a sophomore. I think there are some good things on the horizon for us.”
After combining for 41 points and 28 rebounds in the first two games of the tournament, Pearson was held to just eight points on 2-of-7 shooting with four rebounds. The sophomore guard had 18 points and 17 rebounds in the first meeting of the two schools, which prompted Ohio head coach John Groce to defend Pearson with more size this time around.
“It affected me pretty well,” Pearson said. “I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and I think it got me frustrated for a bit. I tried to just keep my teammates involved and do what I had to do.”
“I thought he was one of the few guys all year in the league that we had no answer for,” Groce said. “He was absolutely terrific and I think he’s a great player. I really respect his competitiveness, he is a warrior. He tried to make some plays today and I thought we were fortunate. The size bothered him and we tried to trap him a little bit and keep him off-balance.”
Junior guard Curtis Dennis (5 of 9) scored a team-high 17 points with five rebounds off the bench for the Rockets while sophomore Reese Holliday (5 of 8) had 12 points and a team-best seven rebounds. Freshman point guard Juice Brown (3 of 9) had nine points and two assists.
In a 77-73 UT victory in the first matchup between the teams on Feb. 8, the Rockets outrebounded Ohio 45-30 and held a 36-20 advantage in points in the paint. This time around, the Bobcats dominated the glass 38-29, including a 15-5 edge in offensive boards. OU also outscored Toledo 28-16 in the paint.
“We only had five offensive rebounds,” Kowalczyk said. “When we beat them at our place we had 20 offensive rebounds. I’m sure that’s all John Groce talked about with his team this week is rebounding and second chances.”