CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Toledo Rockets avenged a 26-point Eastern Michigan Senior Night beat down less than a week ago by beating the Eagles 78-67 in Mid-American Conference tournament quarterfinal action Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It was a good win, and we needed it, because we had a sour taste in our mouth of how we ended the season last week,” Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk said.
Toledo, a No. 4 seed playing its first tournament game, moves on to play No. 1 seed Central Michigan at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The Rockets will take a 20-12 (11-7 MAC) record into that contest. It’s the second straight 20-win season for UT, which lost twice to CMU during regular season play. The most recent was March 3 (85-77) during a stretch when Toledo lost 3-of-4 games.
Eastern Michigan, a No. 8 seed, fell to 21-13 (8-10 MAC) after losing for the first time in its last five outings.
Center Nathan Booth paced the winning Rockets with a career-high 20 points with nine boards, while forward J.D. Weatherspoon registered a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Julius Brown netted 17 points and Justin Drummond added 11.
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Sophomore Raven Lee paced EMU with 16 points, although he was 5-of-16 from the field overall and 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Mike Talley and Karrington Ward contributed 12 points each.
Toledo and Eastern actually split their regular season encounters, each handing the other a 20-plus defeat. The Rockets managed to take the rubber match by out-rebounding and out-shooting EMU.
The Eagles connected on 37.5 percent (24-of-64) overall and were 8-of-28 on threes. Toledo hit 48.3 percent (29-of-60) from the floor and 3-of-13 (23.1%) of its treys.
Toledo picked up 17 points at the line, while Eastern added 11 from the stripe. The Rockets also had a 44-33 rebounding advantage.
“If we dominate the glass, we have a better chance of winning a ball game, so we just wanna keep crashing the boards and get every rebound we can,” Weatherspoon said.
UT grabbed an early 4-0 lead with a dunk by Weatherspoon and Jonathan Williams layup. Eastern responded with layups by Lee and Ward to forge one of three ties in the contest. The Eagles never led.
Toledo was up 24-20 with 7:57 remaining in the first half when it went on a 12-3 run to own its largest lead of the opening stanza (13 points, 38-25).
A jumper by Jordan Price and two free throws by Talley to end the half left EMU down by nine at 38-29.
“I thought the first half we set the tempo offensively and moved the ball well,” Kowalczyk said.
A Ward dunk at 15:11 of the second half left the Eagles down by five at 45-40, but UT scored the next six points to kick off a 19-6 run. That gave the Rockets a commanding 64-46 lead. Eastern Michigan could get no closer than 14 points the rest of the way, and UT set its high-water mark at 20 points with a 76-56 lead at 1:11.