Generally, when playing basketball, and the game is on the line with everything riding on one shot, you shouldn't leave the opposing team's best player wide open. Juice Brown sneaked into the right corner on a Justin Drummond inbound pass, and connected on his only three point shot of the night with less than a second left on the clock to give Toledo a 57-55 come-from-behind victory.
It was a rough first half for the Rockets to say the least. They scored just 20 points, their lowest at the half this season, on 8-for-36 shooting. That's 22% for those who prefer a percentage. Toledo also missed all four free throw attempts they had in the first half. Starters Juice Brown, Jonathan Williams, and Nathan Boothe combined for two points (1-for-20 FG, 0-for-6 3pt.). The most encouraging stats from the opening half was the 11 offensive rebounds the Rockets collected, five of which came from Booth. Senior forward J.D. Weatherspoon's game high 10 points at halftime, including going 2-2 from beyond the arc helped keep Toledo in this game.
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On the flip side, the Northern Kentucky Norse shot 47% from the field and caromed 19 defensive rebounds to open the game. Led by freshmen Tayler Persons 9 points and 4 assists, the Norse built a 17 point first half lead over Toledo. All five of NKU's starters had at least 2 points and a rebound in the first half, while their bench provided 13 points to Toledo's 3.
The Rockets came out of halftime with the energy they were lacking in the first half. Although it didn't strictly lead to points right away. Toledo didn't get on the board in the second half until Brown's first field goal of the game at the 16:37 mark. That started an 11-0 run to get the Rockets back to within 6 points. NKU tried to keep Toledo from coming back, expanding a lead that Toledo had cut to just 4 with 7:11 left to 9 points with just five minutes remaining. Johnathan Williams should be credited with keeping the Rockets in the game, by scoring 10 straight Toledo points, including three 3's with under 10 minutes left in the game.
Toledo played excellent defense to help the cause. Holding NKU to just 21 second half points, and only 3 points in the final five minutes of the game. With a little help from an insane one-handed, leaping steal followed by an alley-oop by J.D. Weatherspoon, and a Nathan Boothe over the shoulder layup and foul, the rockets did everything they could to ensure a comeback. However, NKU tried to throw the knockout punch when Tyler White hit a three with a defender right in his grill. That put NKU up by four with just under a minute and a half to go. Juice rushed down the court and drove the lane for an easy layup. After a Norse missed three that would have most likely been the dagger, Toledo had the ball with about 15 seconds left. A missed layup by Juice and an offensive rebound by the Rockets, Weatherspoon ended up with the ball. J.D. went up for a dunk and got fouled. He made the first, and missed the second. The ball went out of bounds, and the refs gave the ball to NKU. After review, though, possession went back to the Rockets. Which brings us back to Juice's wide open three point shot to with the game.
The Rockets finished just 20-for-60 from the floor. NKU shot 21-for-55. Toledo also couldn't cash in from the charity stripe, making just 9-of-17 attempts. Where the final score really reflects the states is in the rebounding column. Toledo collected 16 offensive rebounds and 44 for the game to just nine offensive and 36 for NKU.
Nathan Booth went 1-for-9 shooting, but collected a game high 15 rebounds, including seven on offense. J.D. Weatherspoon scored a game high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He also collected eight rebounds. For Northern Kentucky, Tayler Parsons finished the game with 11 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Teammate Tyler White finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Toledo's next game will be Tuesday January 6, Home against Central Michigan at 7 p.m.
NKU has a week off until next Saturday when they face off against conference foe Lipscomb on the road at 7:30 p.m.