EMU (21-12) had defeated the Rockets in two previous meetings during the regular season – both since Feb. 20. Those two victories were part of seven straight Eastern wins, making Eastern the hottest team in the MAC.
Toledo, the MAC West champ, was further challenged within the first minute of play when MAC Player of the Year Tre’Shaun Fletcher left the game with an injury.
The senior had previously injured his knee late against Miami Thursday, but scored two points before falling to the floor In Friday’s tilt against EMU.
Jackson connected on 9 of 14 overall and 8 of 11 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore Willie Jackson was the only other Rocket to reach double figures,. While he averages just over six points per game on the year, Willie Jackson contributed 18 (and grabbed 10 rebounds) against Eastern Michigan.
Jaelen Sanford chipped in nine points as only six UT players scored. Facing the Eagles challenging zone and top-ranked (MAC) defense, Toledo (25-10) connected on just 39.3 percent overall. Half of the Rockets 26 field goals came from beyond the arc (12 of 22) and they hit 4 of 8 free throws.
Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan connected on 26 of 67 (38.8%) from the field and 9 of 21 on treys. The Eagles got to the foul line for just three tosses and made two.
Toledo was up by 10 points (31-21) with 2:27 remaining in the first half, but EMU scored the period’s last seven points to make it a 31-28 Rockets lead at the break.
UT pushed it out to a seven-point advantage early in the second stanza, but EMU responded with a 10-0 run to leap ahead, 41-37 at the first media. After that, both teams owned modest leads -- never got ahead by more than five, setting up the pulse-pounding final minute.
With EMU up three, Toledo's Marreon Jackson hit a three ball to tie the game at 61-all.
Following a pair of timeouts, Eastern’s Paul Jackson drove the lane and scored with a layup with .21 remaining.
Toledo worked the ball, and Marreon Jackson crowned his evening with another clutch long-ball to put the Rockets back in front, 64-63 with nine ticks left. There were three seconds on the clock when Kevin McAdoo hoisted a layup. That attempt, however, rimmed out, and time expired before another attempt could be made.
Toledo advances to Saturday’s championship game (7 p.m. ET) and will face Buffalo. The two teams met once during the regular season, with the Bulls posting an 83-69 victory on its home court. The also faced each other in the MAC title game in 2015, with UB claiming a 78-67 victory.
(MRO staff and EMU athletics)