TOLEDO — Like Toledo basketball coach Tod Kowalczyk says, when a college team commits just five turnovers, they are usually playing a deliberate brand of basketball. Not in the Rockets’ case.
The Rockets had just five miscues on the offensive end of the floor but still got up and down the floor for a 91-77 Mid-American Conference victory over Bowling Green in front of 6,922 fans at Savage Arena Saturday.
“Obviously our goal every game is to be under 10 (turnovers),” Kowalczyk said. “Our turnovers number now must be close to the top 10 in the country.
“That’s a good challenge for teams that are scoring like that, having this many turnovers must be among the best in the country when you are playing fast and not turning the ball over. Most teams that don’t turn the ball over play slow. They don’t play with risk.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons were guilty of 15 turnovers, which is not a winning formula for most coaches. Thanks to eight steals, the Rockets outscored the Falcons 18-6 in points off turnovers.
“I think our turnovers initiated their fast break game,” BGSU coach Michael Huger said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and that is the biggest thing right there — giving up turnovers to a team that doesn’t press or anything else.”
Toledo got five players into double figures, led by senior forward Sedrick Millner Jr.’s 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three-point territory.
Toledo junior guard RayJ Dennis matched Miller, scoring 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting with six assists. Millner had seven rebounds and Dennis pulled down five caroms.
Toledo sophomore guard E.J. Farmer came off the bench to score a career high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting with five rebounds.
Senior forward J.T. Shumate had 14 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals and sophomore guard Donte Maddox Jr. contributed 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Rockets.
Toledo sophomore guard Ra-Heim Moss scored five points and 6-10 junior center A.J. Edu had four points and four rebounds.
Leon Ayers III, a senior guard, led the Falcons with 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting with six rebounds and six assists. Ayers needed just four points to get his 1,000th career point, which he did in the first half.
Raushaun Agee, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, was 7-for-9 from the floor, most of those on slam dunks as he scored 14 points with six rebounds.
BGSU senior guard Samari Curtis had 14 points with five assists and senior forward Chandler Turner had a double-double 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams shot over 50% from the floor, with the Rockets hitting 35-of-66 field goals (53%), including 7-for-27 (26%) from the arc and Toledo made 14-of-18 free throws.
The Falcons were 30-for-59 (51%) from the floor, 5-for-19 from downtown and made 12-of-15 from the stripe. The Falcons also had a 35-31 edge off the glass, and BGSU’s bench outscored Toledo’s, 37-19.
In a game that saw 90 points scored in the paint (48-42 in Toledo’s favor) and mid-range jumpers, the Falcons got off to a good start, grabbing a 9-3 lead on a 17-foot jumper by 6-9 junior forward Sam Towns just three minutes after the opening tipoff.
Dennis scored to put Toledo ahead, 25-23, with seven minutes remaining, but Ayers followed by connecting on an 18-foot jumper, tying the game at 25-all.
After three lead changes and nine ties up to that point, Toledo outscored the Falcons 16-6 to close the first half and the Rockets never looked back, although BGSU managed to cut the lead to single digits three times late in the second half but got no closer than eight.
For the Falcons, 6-7, 240-pound senior forward Gabe O’Neal used his size in the paint, making 4-of-4 shots and scoring nine points off the bench.
O’Neal was the best thing the Falcons had going as BGSU went plus-14 when he was on the court. He was the only BGSU player to see the Falcons outscore the Rockets during his playing time.
“I think our low post defense could certainly get better, but Gabe is a big fellow,” Kowalczyk said. “I thought we did a good job overall, but still, we could get better there. I’m sure the next time we play them they will absolutely pound the ball inside.”
Towns, in his first game back after sitting out several weeks with an injury, scored four points, and sophomore sharpshooter Kaden Metheny, who is usually money from the arc, went 1-for-8 from the field and scored just three points.
“I think a big key was guarding the three-point line,” Kowalczyk said. “Percentage wise, they are the best offensive team in the league.
“They shoot 50% from the floor and have two guys over 50% from three. I really felt if we could get them to eight or less threes that would be a big key and they had five of them.”
Huger did credit his team for their effort, including a run in the second half to cut the lead into single digits.
“I thought we fought hard from start to finish,” Huger said. “The guys did a good job of executing at certain points. The negative for me is the turnovers — we had way too many today. That’s the game right there.
“It’s one game at a time. Next game is Ball State (Tuesday at the Stroh Center). This game is over. We can’t get it back. We’ll get another chance to play them down in BG, but it’s on to Ball State.
“No one cares what goes on in BG except BG, so Ball State doesn’t care. They are going to come and try to win the game as well,” Huger added.