Rockets survive in second round victory over CMUWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After leading by 15 in the second half, the Rockets survived a late scare to grab a 75-72 victory over Central Michigan in the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
Toledo (18-15) will move on to play No. 3 seed Ohio (24-7) at 9:30 p.m. March 8.
The 11th-seeded Chippewas (11-21) cut the lead to one point at 70-69 with 20 seconds remaining before freshman point guard Juice Brown made two free throws to extend the lead to three. CMU star Trey Zeigler missed both of his free throws with 13 seconds left, and the Rockets held on for a 75-72 win.
“Lately our end-of-the-game situations have been good. It’s just that lull in the second half where we let teams back at us,” UT head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Tonight we let their press fluster us and I thought we got awfully casual with our turnovers against the press. They have a pretty good press, good athletes and some length but that should not have happened; we should have closed that out a lot earlier.”
Sophomore guard Rian Pearson (7 of 17) recorded a game-high 20 points and 15 rebounds. He has now had 41 points and 28 rebounds in the first two rounds of the MAC Tournament.
“He is a high-energy guy when he plays at both ends,” Kowalczyk said. “I am just very, very proud of the season that he had. He has come a long way. He plays so hard and demands so much from his teammates that it is infectious. When you have a guy that plays that hard with that type of energy, it’s a good thing.”
MAC Freshman of the Year Brown (5 of 12) added 18 points and five assists while sophomore guard Reese Holliday had 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting with nine rebounds.
CMU’s Zeigler continued his success against Toledo, scoring 17 points with eight assists. In three games this season, he has recorded 69 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists against the Rockets.
It was his free-throw shooting, however, that haunted Zeigler late as UT chose to intentionally foul him with a three-point lead and 13 seconds remaining. The Chippewas star missed both free throws as the 51 percent free throw shooter finished 1 of 6 from the line in the loss.
With a matchup against the Bobcats looming, Toledo has now won seven of its last eight games. Ohio has posted a 5-3 record in its last eight games including a 77-73 loss to the Rockets in Toledo on Feb. 8, the team’s lone meeting of the season.
Ohio is led by junior point guard D.J. Cooper who averaged 14.1 points and 5.6 assists on the season, being named First-Team All-MAC.