Junior guard Jaelen Sanford scored 21 points to lead Toledo to a 71-69 victory over Miami in quarterfinal Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament action at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Thursday.
Toledo (22-10) will play Eastern Michigan in semifinal action at 9 p.m. Friday, the third time in the last five years the Rockets have advanced to the league semifinals.Sanford split a pair of free throws with nine seconds left and then helped force Miami’s Nike Sibande into a tough three-point shot in the waning seconds that hit the side rim. Toledo secured the rebound and the win.
Sanford was one of three Rockets in double figures: Senior guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher and sophomore center Luke Knapke each chipped in with 16 points. Fletcher, the MAC Player of the Year, added nine rebounds and four assists.
The Rockets led by a point at the half, 30-29, and pushed the lead to 12 points, 63-51, with 6:44 to play before the Redhawks (16-17) rallied. Sibande hit a three with 26 seconds left that cut the lead to 69-66. Fletcher answered by hitting one of two free throws with 19 ticks left on the clock. Sibande hit another trey with 11 seconds left, setting the stage for the dramatic final seconds.
Toledo overcame a slow shooting start in the first half to shoot 43.5 percent for the game. The Rockets shot 14 of 36 (38.9 percent) in the first half, including just 2 of 15 from behind the arc. In the second half, UT shot 13 of 27 (48.1 percent) from the field.
The Rockets held Miami to 39.4 percent from the field. Toledo committed just nine fouls in the game, compared to 18 for Miami.