Toledo (8-5) rallied from a four-point halftime deficit and pulled away late with an 11-2 run to register an 85-74 victory over Penn on Friday afternoon at the historic Palestra. UT was sizzling from the field in the final 20 minutes for a second straight contest, converting an impressive 72.0 percent of its field-goal attempts after intermission.
"This was a tremendous win for us heading into conference play," Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "It was our third straight road win and we were able to close the game out with some key plays down the stretch."
Senior guard Tre'Shaun Fletcher paced a balanced Rocket attack with 21 points and was joined in double figures by junior guard Jaelan Sanford (19 pts.), junior forward Nate Navigato (14 pts.) and freshman guard Marreon Jackson (12 pts.) Fletcher and Navigato each grabbed a team-high seven boards to help the Rockets win the battle of the boards by a 37-30 margin.
Junior guard Ryan Betley led the Quakers (9-5) with 20 points, while junior forward Max Rothschild registered a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Rockets posted a 52.6 shooting mark, the second-consecutive contest that UT has converted more than half of its field-goal attempts. Toledo also knocked down 9-of-14 three-point shots (64.3 percent) and 16-of-20 free-throw attempts (80.0 percent).
The Rockets limited Penn to a 43.1 field-goal percentage and a 26.7 three-point mark (8-of-30). The Quakers converted 14-of-27 three-point shots in their previous contest vs. Delaware State.
The contest was tight throughout and featured 15 occasions when the score was tied and eight lead changes. After trailing by a 37-33 margin at the half, Fletcher came out aggressive and scored six of UT's first eight points to even the score at 41-41 at the 16:18 mark.
Neither squad led by more than two points for the next nine minutes until Sanford buried a corner trey to put the Rockets ahead, 61-56, with 7:12 to play. The Quakers quickly tied the score at 61-61 but UT began to pull away following a Navigato trey that made the score 72-65 with 3:05 remaining.
Just over a minute later, Navigato buried another three-pointer to give the Rockets a 77-70 lead after Penn had cut its deficit to four.
Toledo returns to action on Tuesday, Jan. 2 when it will travel to Amherst, N.Y. to face Buffalo (8-5) in its Mid-American Conference opener.