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Toledo ends Ohio's season with 17th straight win

Hunter's 27 points not enough in 82-75 MAC semifinal loss

CLEVELAND – Toledo won its 17th game in a row and eliminated Ohio from the Mid-American Conference tournament with an 82-75 victory in the semifinals Friday evening at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The nation’s second-highest scoring team and the MAC regular season champs, the Rockets shot 51.8% and got 28 points from MAC Player of the Year RayJ Dennis. Dante Maddox Jr. added 20 points.

Jaylin Hunter carried the load for the No. 5 seed Bobcats (19-14) with a career-high 27 points. DeVon Baker came off the bench to score 17 points. A night after scoring a career-high 28 points, AJ Brown finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Toledo (27-6) led by as many as 11 points in the second half, and Ohio got as close as 76-72 on three Brown free throws with 55 seconds left. After two Maddox free throws, Hunter missed a 3-pointer, and the Rockets were able to hold off the Bobcats at the foul line to advance to the final against Kent State.

After trailing 37-31 at halftime, Ohio cut its deficit to one a couple different times. It trailed 37-36 after a Dwight Wilson layup and then 42-41 following a Hunter 3-pointer.

The Rockets used a 6-0 burst to go up 58-48 with 8:59 left to play, and after another Hunter 3-pointer cut the Bobcats’ deficit back to five, Toledo scored six in a row again for its biggest lead of 64-53 on a Dennis layup with 5:33 remaining.

As big as Hunter played, it was not enough. His 3-pointer with 3:36 to go made it 66-60, but Setric Millner Jr. answered with one of his own for Toledo. Baker’s 3-pointer with 2:06 left made it 71-65, but again, Ohio could not stop Toledo, with Dennis scoring a layup to put the margin back at eight.

Hunter got the Bobcats off to a great start, scoring their first eight points to open up an 8-4 advantage in the first three minutes. The Rockets controlled the next several minutes and went up 21-12 on a Maddox 3-pointer in the middle of the first half. Toledo had its biggest first-half lead of 25-15 on a Dennis layup with six minutes to play.

After scoring just seven points in more than 12 minutes, Ohio’s offense came back to life late in the first half, and the Bobcats got as close as 27-25 on a Brown 3-pointer at the 4:09 mark.

Wilson scored seven points with 11 rebounds and five turnovers in 24 minutes in his final game for the Bobcats. Limited by sickness, Miles Brown had just two points in 15 minutes. Ben Roderick went just 1-for-7 and scored three points while playing 34 minutes, and AJ Clayton went 0-for-6 and did not score in 16 minutes.

Ohio shot just 38.6% and had 17 turnovers but stayed in the game with 20 offensive rebounds. Hunter was 7 of 11 on 3-pointers and Baker 2 of 3. The rest of the team was 1 of 16.

Millner and JT Shumate had nine points each for Toledo, while Ra’Heim Moss scored eight points.

Coach Jeff Boals seemed to indicate that the season was over and that the Bobcats would not play in any postseason tournament because of health reasons.

It was the end of the career for Wilson, an All-MAC second-team forward this past season, as well as Baker, who spent three seasons at UNC Asheville and one at Toledo before finishing his career at Ohio. Miles Brown and Roderick were seniors but have another year of eligibility remaining because of the COVID season.

Toledo and Kent State meet in the MAC tournament championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

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