What a dark day for Toledo fans.
The Rockets women’s team were the number one seed and were ousted by Ball State on Friday morning in the women’s tournament, and just hours later, the top-seeded Toledo men’s team suffered the same fate.
It would be the #4 seed Akron Zips who ultimately handed the Toledo Rockets a 70-62 defeat in semifinal action at the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday evening.
Akron looked like the more aggressive team from the get-go, using some hot shooting in the first half (53 percent from field goal range) to race out to a 38-28 lead. The Rockets, on the other hand, looked sluggish and had trouble putting the ball in the basket—not a great combination. The Zips had a 15-point lead with 1:19 to play in the first half, but the Rockets scored the last five points of the first half and the first six points of the second half to pull within 38-34 with 17 minutes to play.
It appeared the Rockets were gathering momentum and were poised to take the lead early in the second half, getting the lead down to as low as two points down the stretch on several occasions, but the Zips always seemed to have an answer when necessary. A JT Shumate layup got Toledo within two points for the last time at 61-59 with 2:52 to play. Then the Zips’ Enrique Freeman, playing with four fouls since the 9:00 minute mark, got a big basket and then a key block on defense. On the ensuing possession, Mikal Dawson hit a three pointer that pushed the Akron advantage to 66-59 with 1:53 to play. The Zips took care of business in the final minute from the free throw line to get the victory and secure the second high-seed knockout of the day between the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Xavier Castaneda had an outstanding game for the Zips with 22 points, including 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. Ali Ali added 13 points for Akron, while Freeman finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 1:39 left to play. The Rockets were led by Ryan Rollins’ 18 points, but he had to take 19 attempts to get those points. The Rockets were just 4-of-15 from three-point range for the game. Even worse, they were just 10-of-22 from the free throw line.
The Zips improve to 23-9 on the season and will face either Ohio or Kent State in the championship game tomorrow night. The Rockets drop to 26-7 and will find out where they will play next on Sunday or Monday. As regular season champion, Toledo will have a spot clinched in the men’s National Invitational Tournament.