Toledo Beats Eastern Michigan 77-66, Claims Co-MAC Season Title

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

On Rian Pearson's final home game, it was Justin Drummond who led the Rockets to a second-half surge over Eastern Michigan

Rian Pearson recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds in his final game at Savage Arena. But it was Justin Drummond who stole the night.

The junior transfer scored all of his 22 points in the second half as the Rockets defeated Eastern Michigan 77-66 and claimed a share of the MAC regular season title for the first time since 2007.

Three weeks ago, the Eagles used their vaunted 2-3 zone to hold the Rockets to just 25 percent from the field. Early on in Saturday's contest, they used the 3-pointer to build an early lead. Eastern shot 54 percent from behind the arc in the half, with Ray Lee, Karrington Ward and Darell Combs all making two 3-pointers each. But even as the Eagles came out hot, they were playing with fire.

As Eastern Michigan began to push the pace of the game, Toledo began to find its rhythm. Trailing by five with eight minutes remaining in the half, the Rockets connected on three straight three pointers (two by Pearson) to take a one point lead.

Pearson played emotional throughout the first half of his final regular-season game. Whether it was grabbing offensive boards or boxing out Eagles pursuing loose balls, Pearson left it all out on the court.

A few minutes later, the Eagles held a five-point lead at 32-27. This time, it was John Williams' 3 pointer that sparked a Rocket run. Juice Brown would follow with a three pointer of his own on the Rockets' next possession, and pick up an extra two points stemming from a technical foul on Eagles coach Ron Murphy. Toledo would take a two-point lead into the locker room, 34-32

The Rockets scoring frenzy continued as the second half began. Juice Brown's 3 pointer and Drummond's first bucket of the game contributed to a 10-0 Toledo run to begin the half. Facing a 12-point deficit, and nothing to gain from a victory, it looked as if the Eagles had thrown in the towel.

But three quick transition layups and a Ward 3-pointer later, the Eagles had clawed right back into the game. With 14 minutes remaining, Eastern Michigan held the momentum.

With Pearson struggling in the second half and Toledo failing to put the Eagles away, Drummond suddenly took control. Leading by three with just over eight minutes remaining, Nathan Boothe found a streaking Drummond for a slick back-door pass and a thunderous dunk. In the Rockets' next possession, Eastern again failed to pick up a streaking Drummond, and the junior drew the foul and finished the play with a soft finger roll. From that point forward, the Eagles would not come within ten points of Toledo.

Ward led the way for Eastern Michigan, scoring 20 points on 4-5 3-point shooting.

Though there was a chance that Eastern Michigan would be playing for the fifth seed in the MAC Tournament, Ohio's victory over Miami made Saturday's battle in Toledo irrelevant for seeding purposes. Eastern Michigan will play Wednesday in Ypsilanti for a chance to travel to Cleveland as the No. 6 seed. Toledo will receive and automatic bye into the semi-finals on Friday in Quicken Loans Arena as the No. 2 seed..

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