Rockets hold off CMU rally in 75-72 win

March 8, 2012 | News, UToday
By Steve Easton

Sophomore Matt Smith’s tomahawk slam ignited the Rockets in the first half.

Survive and advance. That’s exactly what No. 7 seed Toledo did Wednesday evening as the Rockets held off a late Central Michigan comeback bid to pull out a 75-72 triumph over the Chippewas in a second-round Mid-American Conference Tournament contest at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

UT will now face No. 3 seed Ohio in the MAC Quarterfinals Thursday, March 8, at 9:30 p.m.

The Rockets (18-15) never trailed and were up 66-55 following sophomore Reese Holliday’s trey with 4:16 remaining. No. 11 seed CMU (11-21) answered with nine straight points though, reducing UT’s lead to 66-64 on Andre Coimbra’s three-point play just over two minutes later. Toledo hit nine of 10 free throws in the final 41 seconds to secure the victory.

Sophomore Rian Pearson dominated the paint for the Rockets, registered his third straight double-double and 10th of the season with a game-high 20 points and 15 rebounds. Freshman Julius Brown tallied 18 points and a team-high five assists for UT, while Holliday contributed 12 points and nine boards.

Sophomore Trey Zeigler was one of four Chippewas to score in double figures and finished with a team-high 17 points. He was just one of six from charity stripe, including a pair of misses with 13 seconds to play.

Toledo held a decisive advantage in the free-throw department, knocking down 23 of 30 attempts (76.7 percent) compared to CMU’s 15 of 25 totals (60.0 percent).

The Rockets shot 45.1 percent from the field, including 50.0 percent (6 of 12) from behind the three-point arc. CMU posted a 37.3 field goal percentage and was 7 of 25 (28.0 percent) from three-point range.

UT scored the game’s first five points and was up 15-6 at the 13:38 mark of the first half following sophomore Matt Smith’s tomahawk slam. Smith then increased the Rockets’ lead to 11 points, 20-9, on a spinning jumper before CMU began to rally. The Chippewas went on an 11-1 run to make it a one-point contest at 21-20, but UT was able to regroup and take a 35-31 halftime lead.

Toledo looked to be on its way to a comfortable win after Pearson’s six straight points put CMU down 56-43 with just over eight minutes to play. Junior Curtis Dennis’ three-point play increased the advantage to 59-44 a minute later.

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