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Rockets top Bobcats again to regain 1st place in MAC

Millner, Shumate, Rollins pace Rockets' 77-62 victory

TOLEDO – Ohio shot just 32.8% and fell to Toledo for a second time this season, losing 77-62 on Tuesday night at Savage Arena.

The Bobcats, playing their fourth game in eight days, were worse inside the arc, going 11 of 36 (30.6%), than from 3-point range, where they were 11 of 31 (35.5%). Toledo was able to easily overcome 17 turnovers by shooting 56.4%, including 68.4% on 2-pointers.

Toledo (19-5, 11-2 Mid-American Conference) had balance, led by Setric Millner Jr. with 18 points. JT Shumate had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots, and Ryan Rollins, the reigning Mid-American Conference freshman of the year and a favorite for player of the year, was had an efficient 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. The point guard added 16 rebounds and eight assists.

"I thought they did a lot of same things, and we had a game plan coming in," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. "Initially it was tight after the first two wars. Got off a good start. And then I thought we were step slow late in the first half. We missed some shots that they turned into transition baskets. You can't give them easy baskets to transition."

Tommy Schmock came off the bench to lead the Bobcats (19-4, 10-2 MAC) with 17 points and four steals. Mark Sears had 13 points, but it came on 5-of-19 shooting. Fellow Ohio stars Ben Vander Plas (eight points on 3-of-11 shooting) and Jason Carter (seven points on 3-of-9 shooting) also struggled.

The shooting disparity was even greater in the first half. Toledo shot 61.5% to Ohio’s 37.9%, allowing it to build a 38-27 lead. The Bobcats cut their deficit to six with the first five points of the second half, but the Rockets pushed out to a lead as big as 60-43 with 9:26 remaining.

"We made a great run the second half," Boals said. "We start the second half and cut to five and got wide open threes and missed a couple layups. They're a good team. You got to make those opportunities. I think we were seven for 13 from the free throw line. And, you know, we kind of looked like it was game four and eight days a little bit."

Down 67-52 with four minutes remaining, Schmock helped Ohio make a run, starting with back-to-back 3-pointers, but it was able to get only as close as 69-62 following two Miles Brown free throws with 1:41 to go. The Bobcats missed their final seven shots.

"It felt good to see some shots going, but obviously, we had stuff that we needed to take care of the first half, especially on the defensive end," Schmock said.

For a while, the teams played even, and an 8-0 run capped by a Carter 3-pointer put Ohio ahead 8-5. Rollins connected on a 3-pointer to tie it, and the Bobcats did not lead again.

Toledo began to take over midway through the first half with a Shumate basket that made it 20-18. The Rockets pushed ahead 36-22 on a Ra’Heim Moss layup, and Rollins stopped short Bobcats push with a jumper before halftime to put the lead back into double digits.

Minus Schmock, Ohio made just 16 of 55 (29%) field goal attempts. The Bobcats did not help themselves at the foul line either, going 7 of 13. The huge shooting and turnover disparities – the Bobcats had just five turnovers and attempted 12 more field goals – also led the Rockets to hold a 47-26 rebounding advantage because of the huge volume of missed shots by Ohio.

Frustration boiled over five minutes into the second half when Boals was called for a technical foul after IJ Ezuma was whistled for an offensive foul away from the ball. In the first half, Boals was outraged at an offensive foul call against Carter when it appeared Toledo should have been whistled for flopping.

Though he struggled to make shots, Vander Plas did contribute eight rebounds and six assists.

Both of the Bobcats’ MAC losses are to the Rockets, and neither have been close. Toledo took an 87-69 win in Athens on Jan. 21 to snap Ohio’s nine-game winning streak. This win ended a five-game streak for Ohio and puts Toledo back atop the league standings after it fell 93-83 at Ball State on Friday night.

Ohio’s busy schedule continues with a road trip to face Central Michigan at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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