Bubble Watch: Toledo Rockets Escape Near Disaster in Bowling Green
The biggest beneficiary of Boston College’s mammoth upset over #1 Syracuse Wednesday night was the Toledo Rockets. Boston College was arguably one of Toledo’s toughest non-conference road wins this season. With only one match up against an RPI top 50 team this season, Toledo has to run the table in their division to earn their first at large berth in the NCAA Tournament since 1980. The first team that Toledo needed to beat to pad their resume was their I-75 rival Bowling Green. Bowling Green has been a thorn in the side of their last three Mid-American Conference opponents, pushing each opponent to the brink. Toledo has also had a stroke of bad luck in “The Bird Cage,” losing their last six contests in Bowling Green.
Toledo needed to capitalize on Boston College strengthening their RPI by adding a much needed road win against their bitter rival. It was a tale of two halves for the Rockets as they jetted out to a 39-23 advantage. Toledo entered the contest tied with the Duke Blue Devils at 15th in the nation in points per game (81.7), putting their opponents on skates in the first half. The lead may have only been by 16 points but it might as well have been 40. Toledo entered the locker room in total control. The second half was a different story. Bowling Green began to bury shots, which allowed them to set up a stifling 1-2-2 full court press against Toledo. The press turned Toledo’s weapon of tempo against them and caused a vast majority of Toledo’s 17 team turnovers. The pressure also forced the Rockets out of their stronghold of the paint.
Julius “Juice” Brown, ranked nineteenth nationally in assists, did his damage scoring. Brown was the lone bright spot in a 21-point second half for the Rockets. Brown’s 21 points led all scorers. Toledo’s saving grace would be Bowling Green’s 58.8 percent shooting from the free throw line. A missed free throw with 11 seconds remaining gave Toledo the last shot in a 58-58 tie ball game. Rian Pearson’s baseline jumper with 3.2 seconds would be the deciding factor in the ball game. Toledo may have kept their postseason hopes alive with a victory. The Rockets have the potential to be the first team in the MAC West division to get an NCAA Tournament berth in nine years.
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