By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jonathan Williams led a long-range attack as the University of Toledo Rockets outlasted the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York Bulls, 92-88 in Mid-American Conference action at Alumni Arena, Tuesday night.
Williams connected on 5 of 6 three-point attempts in the second half as Toledo erased a five-point deficit.
“Williams got loose on us and scored most of his points in the last ten minutes,” UB head coach Bobby Hurley said. “He was a big part of them having this type of performance.”
The sophomore guard scored 12 straight Toledo points – all from behind the arc. His third in the string gave Toledo a lead it never surrendered at 76-74. It was a part of an effort which saw the Rockets connect on 12 of 14 from long range.
“You look at how they shot it,” Hurley stated. “They were very efficient. You don’t see too many teams shoot that type of percentage from three. They were very good.”
Julius Brown paced Toledo in the first half as the Rockets led by as many as 13. The senior guard netted 12 on 4 of 5 shooting and handed out two assists.
“I can’t explain why it wasn’t more energized,” Hurley said of his team’s defense in the first half. “We gave up too many offensive rebounds. We let them shoot 55 percent in the first half which wasn’t good for us especially at home. The defense just wasn’t really that good.”
Rodell Wigginton hit a runner in the lane before the first half ended to give Buffalo momentum going into the locker room.
The Bulls scored a combined four points on the fast break, second chances and off turnovers in the first half.
UB took advantage of the late momentum and started the second with a 14-3 run to grab the lead.
“We were getting in passing lanes,” Hurley said of his team’s effort coming out of the locker room. “We were rebounding better. We got into the open court and I think we excel more when we’re able to play in the transition and we got some easy baskets.”
Shannon Evans swiped a pass and led Lamonte Bearden into the open court for a layup. Bearden and Xavier Ford combined on a double team to create a steal. Ford grabbed the loose ball and finished at the basket.
Buffalo scored the next ten. Evans converted a traditional three-point play. Justin Moss completed his own old-fashioned three. Moss followed with a steal and lead to Bearden who set up his teammate for a dunk with a drop pass on the two-on-one break.
“I thought we really had a bad five-to-seven-minute stretch to start the second where we played just awful,” Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Today, we panicked a little bit. We lost our composure at both ends of the floor to start the second half.”
After a Toledo timeout, Evans fed Will Regan in the lane for two. Wigginton scored on a layup. Buffalo led 49-44.
The teams traded 6-0 runs from there.
Brown hit back-to-back pullup jumpers, and Boothe connected from the baseline.
Wigginton figured in the next four UB points. The junior guard fed Regan in the lane for two then followed with a steal and layup. Evans found room on the baseline for a reverse layup and 55-50 Bulls lead.
UB looked up to the task. Evans hit two from the charity stripe. Skeete followed his own miss and led Moss for an and-one. Moss followed with a rebound and putback to give UB its final lead of the night at 74-73.
“I thought we had our chances,” Hurley said. “We had some open ones that didn’t go down.”
Moss led all scorers and notched his 11 double-double of the season with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Evans added 17. Skeete chipped in 13 while Wigginton had 10. Bearden handed out a team-high five assists.
Brown led Toledo with 25 on 8 of 11 shooting including 3 of 3 behind the arc.
Justin Drummond scored 18. Weatherspoon tallied 17 while Boothe had 11. Brown and Drummond both dished five assists.
“Thought it was a really high-level offensive game,” Hurley said. “Two very good teams that went toe-to-toe tonight. They have a team that brought back four starters that won 27 games last year. They’re hitting their stride right now. They made all the plays that they needed to make down the stretch whether it was a three-point field goal or converting their free throws. They just made a few more plays than we did.”
UB held an advantage in the paint (52-34) points off turnovers (24-13), second-chance points (14-12) fast break (12-8) and bench points (14-6).
“It was a great road win against a really good team,” Kowalczyk said. “I thought you had two really good teams playing really good basketball. Just proud of our guys and how we finished it when we needed to.”
The Bulls hit just 5 of 20 attempts behind the arc.
UB (15-8/6-5) hosts Central Michigan (17-5/7-4) on Saturday. A 2 pm tipoff is scheduled.
Toledo (16-8/8-3) hosts Kent State (16-8/7-4), Friday night. A 6 pm start is slated. The game will be televised on ESPNU.