Toledo rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit and remained in first place in the Mid-American Conference's West Division with a gritty 57-54 victory over Northern Illinois (12-15, 5-9 MAC) on Saturday evening in Savage Arena. The victory improved the Rockets' record to 21-6 overall (9-5 MAC) and kept UT a game in front of Central Michigan (18-9, 8-6 MAC) in the West Standings.
Senior Nate Navigato paced the Rocket attack with a season-tying high 21 points. Sophomore Marreon Jackson also was in double digits with 10 points. Navigato and Jackson each knocked down three treys in the second half to help Toledo rally for the win.
Toledo trailed 43-32 with 12:16 remaining when Navigato buried back-to-back triples to reduce NIU's cushion to five. Jackson then hit two straight corner treys and added a free throw to even the score at 48-48 with 5:23 left. Junior Luke Knapke's layup with 3:20 remaining put UT in front 52-50, a lead the Rockets' wouldn't relinquish.
Knapke topped the Rockets on the boards by tying his career high with 13 rebounds.
Senior Eugene German paced the Huskies with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
Toledo shot just 38.0 percent from the field but limited NIU to a 36.4 FG%. Each team knocked down eight three-point field goals, but the Rockets enjoyed a slight advantage at the charity stripe. UT converted 11-of-17 free-throw attempts, while NIU was just 6-of-11 at the line.
The Rockets will hit the road for two games next week. UT will visit Ball State on Tuesday, Feb. 26 before heading to Central Michigan on Saturday, March 1.
How It Happened
• Northern Illinois scored the game's first six points before Willie Jackson's driving layup just over four minutes into the first half.
• The Rockets trailed by as many as eight points before rallying at the end of the half with a 6-0 run to cut the score to 23-21.
• Toledo shot 9-of-26 (34.6%) from the floor in the first half but held NIU to just 9-of-31 (29.0%) from the field.
• Toledo took its first lead of the game, 27-26, at the 18:28 mark on consecutive three-pointers from Nate Navigato and Marreon Jackson.
• The Huskies' Eugene German then exploded with 10 straight points to give NIU a 36-27 lead with 16:03 remaining.
• Navigato drilled back to back three-point attempts to cut the Huskies' lead to 43-38 with over nine minutes left to play.
• Trailing by seven points, the Rockets' Marreon Jackson took over with seven straight points, including a pair of clutch three-pointers, to tie the game at 48-48 with just over five minutes remaining.
• Toledo took the lead with 3:20 left on a Knapke layup to bring the score to 52-50.
• The Rockets finished the game on a 9-4 run, highlighted by a Jaelan Sanford floater to give UT a 54-50 lead with 1:14 remaining.
• NIU's Dante Thorpe converted a three-point play 13 seconds later to cut the Rockets' lead to one, but Navigato buried two free throws for a 56-53 lead.
• Both teams then hit 1-of-2 free throws for the final margin of victory.
• NIU had two three-point shots in the final 20 seconds. Sanford blocked German's attempt, while Lacey James' shot rimmed out.
Inside the Numbers
• Toledo swept its season series vs. NIU for the second straight year and has a five-game winning streak vs. the Huskies.
• The Rockets improved their home record to 12-2.
• Toledo has held opponents under 60 points in nine contests this season.