About three weeks before the Toledo football team takes the field at the GoDaddy Bowl, the Rockets' men's basketball team did something its gridiron brothers will hope to imitate: it beat Arkansas State.
Despite a miserable shooting start that saw the hosts fall behind by 14 points in the first half, Toledo (5-4) took out the visiting Red Wolves (2-4) 73-65 Saturday in Toledo.
Toledo senior guard Julius Brown led the Rockets with 15 points, including two three-pointers in a game-clinching 8-0 run in the final two minutes, and teammate Justin Drummond added 13 on 11-of-12 free-throw shooting. The Rockets saw each starter score in double figures, and bench guard Jordan Lauf nearly got there as well with nine points of his own.
Arkansas State's Cameron Golden led all scorers with 18 points, though despite hitting his first three shots from deep, he went just 1-for-7 the rest of the way as the game slipped away from the Red Wolves. Center Nouhoum Bocoum chipped in another 13 for the visitors with his work in the paint.
The Red Wolves started off hot, jumping out to a 23-13 lead in the game's first eight minutes thanks to 5-of-6 three-point shooting. Cold shooting from the Rockets and two early fouls leading to a benched J.D. Weatherspoon did not help the home team's cause, and Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk looked for a timeout to give his squad a chance to regroup in front of a silenced Savage Arena. Golden led the Arkansas State onslaught with 11 points on 3-for-3 shooting from deep to that point.
Toledo suffered from the opposite of Arkansas State's success early, as the Rockets missed their first 10 three-pointers before Brown finally buried the team's first just about two minutes before halftime.
After the Red Wolves had opened up a double-digit lead, Weatherspoon began to help Toledo claw back with four straight points on two post-up plays. The Rockets climbed within five points of the visitors before atrocious shooting and carelessness with passing by Toledo allowed Arkansas State to take another double-digit advantage. The Red Wolves led by as many as 14 before Brown and Lauf swished back-to-back threes to spark an 11-0 Rockets run.
Golden had the half's final made basket, and Arkansas State entered the break ahead 42-37. That deficit could have been much worse for Toledo, as the Rockets shot 36.7% from the field compared to 55.2% for the Red Wolves. Arkansas State's 42 first-half points nearly matched its entire output from its previous game, an 87-46 drubbing Wednesday at Purdue.
The teams played more or less even basketball to start the second half, but Toledo continued its gradual climb to the point that the hosts took a 52-51 lead with 13:30 to play. It was the Rockets' first advantage since Nathan Boothe opened the game's scoring at 2-0. That sequence was part of an 11-0 run that shot the Rockets from a six-point deficit to a five-point lead.
Things stayed mostly equal during a back-and-forth second half, and the teams were tied at 65 with 2:11 to play. From there, Brown gave Toledo a 71-65 lead with consecutive threes, a lead extended to eight by two Jonathan Williams free throws to seal the 73-65 Rockets win.
The Rockets will stay in town to face 2-6 Robert Morris Wednesday, while the Red Wolves will once more hit the road to take on 5-2 Mississippi State.