Coming off of the MAC Championship game in which Toledo lost to the Western Michigan Broncos, the Rockets set their focus on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the first round of the 2014 National Invitational Tournament. The Rockets were hoping to do something no other team has successfully done this season, and that is beat the Golden Eagles on its home court. It didn't happen.
The Rockets came out of the gate sluggish, timid, and outright dreadful shooting the ball. Southern Miss seemed to have the game easily in hand as they lead 34-19 at the half while shooting 14 of 28 (50 percent) from the field. Tod Kowalczyk got his boys refocused at halftime and they responded as they came out with a purpose.
Julius Brown hit a huge 3-pointer to get the second half comeback started for the Rockets. The Rockets began the second half on an 11-0 run fueled by Justin Drummond who had 5 points during that span. They went on a 22-6 (9 of 11 from the field) run to take their first lead of the game 41-40 with 12 minutes to go in the game.
Foul trouble, and missed field goals would prove to be the doom for the Rockets as ultimately they could not maintain the momentum they came out with after halftime. The game remained tight until Aaron Brown's 3-point shot with 4:22 left gave Southern Miss a 57-51 advantage. The Rockets didn't do themselves any favors from the foul line either shooting a whopping 64 percent. Combine that with the fact they only shot 4-22 (18 percent) from beyond the arc, and it was too much for them to overcome in what ended up being an excellent game.
Michael Craig lead the Golden Eagles with 16 points, and 9 rebounds. Neil Watson, Jerrold Brooks, and Aaron Brown all chipped in as well with 12, 11, and 10 points respectively.
For the Rockets, Brown lead the way with 19 points. Justin Drummond, Rian Pearson, and Nathan Boothe pitched in with 14,13, and 10.
The Rockets close the season with back to back disappointing losses. The game against WMU seemed to get away quickly, while the game against the Golden Eagles looked so dull, and then provided so much hope for a team who was a favorite to win the MAC. The Golden Eagles will advance to the second round of the NIT to take on the Missouri Tigers in what should be a terrific showdown.