Red-Hot Second-Half Shooting & Strong Defense Spur Toledo Men's Basketball Over Cleveland State, 77-62

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Another strong defensive performance and some red-hot second-half shooting propelled Toledo to a comfortable 77-62 victory at Horizon League foe Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon. The Rockets (7-5) limited the Vikings (3-9) to a 39.3 field-goal percentage for the game and pulled away thanks to a 70.8 shooting mark after halftime.
"This was a great way for us to go into our short holiday break," Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "We built off our Jackson State game with some really good defense, and then we played really good fundamental basketball in the second half. Our shot selection and ball movement was a big key for us to be able to shoot as well as we did."
Junior guard Jaelan Sanford paced UT offensively with 20 points and also dished out a team-high six assists with just one turnover. Joining Sanford in double figures were junior forward Nate Navigato (13 pts.), sophomore center Luke Knapke (12 pts.) and sophomore forward Willie Jackson (12 pts.). The quartet keyed Toledo's torrid second-half shooting by combining to connect on 15-of-19 (78.9 percent) field-goal attempts.
Jackson and Knapke each grabbed a team-high eight rebounds as well, spurring the Rockets to a 38-26 advantage on the glass. That continued a recent trend for UT as it possesses a plus-7.6 rebounding margin over its last five contests.
Toledo shot 52.6 percent for the game, marking the first time since its season-opening win over Saint Joseph's it had connected on more than half of its field-goal attempts. The Rockets also shot 10-of-25 (40.0 percent) from three-point range and were 7-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Freshman guard Tyree Appleby led Cleveland State with 15 points.
The first half featured nine lead changes with neither squad able to take more than a four-point advantage.
Toledo held a 32-30 cushion at halftime but saw the Vikings open the second half with an 11-5 spurt for a 41-37 lead with 14:17 to play. UT stormed back though with a Willie Jackson layup and a Navigato trey for a 42-41 lead just over two minutes later.
CSU's Jamarcus Hairston responded with a three-pointer on the Vikings' next possession, but UT limited the hosts to just six free throws as part of 19-6 run over the ensuing six minutes to take a 61-50 lead.
Sanford then caught fire with three treys down the stretch, enabling Toledo to expand its lead to as many as 19 points.
The Rockets return to action for their final non-conference contest on Friday, Dec. 29, where UT will visit Ivy League foe Penn (8-4) at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia, Pa.