While the Golden Flashes did well to contain Toledo's generally explosive offense, it was the uncontested shots that led the the Rockets' demise.
Toledo (10-8, 2-3 MAC) shot just 38.5 percent from the free-throw line and the Rockets found themselves unable to keep up with productive nights from Devareaux Manley and Kris Brewer, falling 67-60 to Kent State (13-5, 4-1 MAC) Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.
Manley led all scorers with 21 points despite shooting just 3-of-10 from three-point distance, and Brewer chipped in 18 points, thanks to hitting a scorching 8-of-9 on two-point shots. While leading scorer Jimmy Hall was held to a mere six points on the evening, the Flashes' defense and secondary scoring made his limited scoreboard contribution a moot point.
Kent State got the best of the visitors on the other end of the floor, holding the usually-dangerous Julius Brown to just nine points. Brown was Toledo's only starter who failed to break double-digit scoring, as Nathan Boothe and Jonathan Williams led the Rockets with 12 each.
The hosts did not get the start they wanted, taking a timeout three minutes in as Toledo opened with the game's first six points. The Golden Flashes eventually found their stroke, taking their first lead before the halfway mark of an opening frame that saw neither team gain major separation.
It was Kent State that had the 27-24 advantage at the break, as Brewer's nine points off the bench led all scorers, followed by seven first-half points by Toledo's Williams. Brown, the Rockets' leading scorer on the season, was held without a point on 0-of-2 shooting in the game's first 20 minutes.
Brown did not hit paydirt until three minutes into the second half, when he buried a three to give the Rockets a five-point lead. As Brown began to heat up, Kent State started to get cold from distance. The Flashes piled up misses, reaching a 3-for-16 number as Toledo built a lead, but some untimely Rockets turnovers meant the hosts could pull even at 49-all with seven minutes to play.
From there, Kent State went on a 10-4 run to open a six-point lead with three minutes to play, its largest of the evening. While Toledo was able to pull within three from there, the Rockets would not get any closer than that as the Golden Flashes pulled away with crunch-time free throws. While both teams were plagued by shoddy shooting from the charity stripe, Kent State's 10-of-19 trumped Toledo's 5-of-13 as it closed out the 67-60 win.
With the victory, the Golden Flashes keep pace with MAC East co-leader Bowling Green with a 4-1 conference record. The Rockets now sit two games behind MAC West leader Western Michigan and, despite their status as preseason favorites, have a hill to climb to earn a top-four seed in the MAC Tournament.
The Rockets will return home to take on rival Bowling Green Saturday, and Kent State is Muncie-bound to battle Ball State Saturday.