TOLEDO – An undermanned Toledo squad gave Ohio all it could handle on the road Saturday evening but ended up on the short end of a 76-67 decision to the Mid-American Conference East Division co-leaders (13-5, 4-0 MAC).
Junior F Matt Smith led Toledo (6-9, 2-2 MAC) with 16 points and was joined in double figures by junior G Rian Pearson (14 pts., 7 reb.) and senior G Dominique Buckley (13 pts.).
Junior F Reese Holliday grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds to go along with eight points, and his boardwork helped UT hold a 35-29 advantage on the glass. Sophomore G Julius Brown played another strong floor game for the Rockets, just missing his first career double-double with nine points, nine assists and just two turnovers.
Brown was forced to play the entire contest with freshman G Josh Lemons sitting out due to injury.
"I told our team after the game that if we compete like we did tonight for the rest of the season we're going to win a lot of games," Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ohio's program, and we came in here tonight and stood toe-to-toe with a Sweet-16 caliber team."
Senior F Reggie Keely topped the Bobcats with a career-high 24 points. Also scoring in double figures were senior G Walter Offutt (14 pts.), senior F Ivo Baltic (13 pts.) and junior G Ricardo Johnson (13 pts.).
"Keely did some things tonight that we haven't seen him do," Kowalczyk said. "He stepped out and made some jump shots and got to the free-throw line."
Toledo shot a scorching 57.7 percent in the first half and finished the contest with a 47.3 FG%. Ohio shot 50.9 percent, including a 56.5 mark in the second half. The Bobcats committed just five turnovers and forced 14 Rocket miscues with 10 coming after halftime.
Both teams were firing on all cylinders in the early stages with Ohio taking its largest advantage of the opening stanza, 22-17, on Johnson's jumper with 11:38 remaining in the first half. UT rallied though when Smith's five points keyed an 8-0 run for a 36-30 cushion 2:30 before halftime. Keely scored the half's final three points though to cut Toledo's in half.
The Bobcats took the lead for good just over two minutes into the second half with an 8-0 spurt as Toledo committed turnovers on its first two possessions of the second half. UT quickly answered with buckets from Buckley and Smith to make it a one-point contest.
"The start of the second half was probably the key to the game," Kowalczyk said. "We were a little too casual with the basketball and they took advantage of it."
Toledo remained within striking distance but could never score the equalizer. A Pearson layup reduced the Bobcats' lead to 62-59 with 7:26 to play, but Ohio responded with five straight points. That spurt was highlighted by a deep trey from sophomore G Stevie Taylor with the shot clock about to expire. The closest UT came the rest of the way was six points.
Toledo returns to action on Wednesday, Jan. 23 when it hosts MAC East Division co-leader Akron (13-4, 4-0 MAC). Tip-off time is set for 7:00 p.m. with the game being televised on SportsTime Ohio.