Jeff Boals said otherwise afterward, but there’s little double Ohio fans know exactly who they’d rather not see with the season on the line in Cleveland next month.
The Bobcats came to Savage Arena expecting a showdown game for the top of the Mid-American Conference. Instead, they got a rerun. Toledo sizzled the nets again, and blew out Ohio again, with a 77-62 victory on Tuesday night.
The win nudged Toledo 19-5, 11-2 MAC) back into sole possession of first place in the league standings. The Rockets won their 13th consecutive home game, and continued their recent run of dominance over Ohio. Tuesday’s win was the eighth in a row in the regular season against the Bobcats; the average margin of victory has been 16 points.
Still, Boals offered a convincing “Hopefully we see these guys again” in his postgame radio interview. The Bobcats had a five-game winning streak ended, and fell to 19-4 overall and 10-2 in the MAC.
Tuesday’s rematch bore a striking resemblance to the first meeting this season, an 87-69 UT win in the Convo. The Rockets shot it extremely well again (56.4 percent), forced Ohio into tough shots throughout (32.8 percent shooting), held a plus-21 rebounding edge, and led by a double-digit margin for most of the last 35 minutes.
More similarities? Standout Ohio guard Mark Sears struggled against Toledo for a second time; He finished with 13 points and six rebounds, but shot just 5 of 19 from the field. Forward Jason Carter missed the final six-plus minutes due to cramping in the first matchup; in the rematch he finished with just seven points and missed the last 7:50 while getting what appeared to be cramping treatment on the bench.
The game was the fourth in eight days for Ohio, and starts a week that includes three road games in five days. OU will play six games total in a 12-day period. The Bobcats have a short turnaround before Thursday night’s tipoff at Central Michigan.
“Some plays tonight it looked like it,” Boals said. “It looked like we were a step slow.”
Toledo guard Ryan Rollins took another step toward perhaps locking up the MAC Player of the Year award. He outplayed Sears in a second straight matchup and piled up 15 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.
But the Rockets’ real strength is in balance, and the ability to be lethal from midrange. Toledo had four players in double figures and shot 26 of 38 (68.4 percent) from 2-point range; Ohio was just 11 of 36 (30.6 percent) from inside the arc. Through two games against OU this season, Toledo is shooting 57.8 percent overall and 67.1 percent from 2-point range.
Setric Millner backed Rollins with 18 points, J.T. Shumate added 17 points and an incredible 7 blocked shots, and RayJ Dennis had 9 of his 12 points in the first half.
Backup guard Tommy Schmock led Ohio and tied a career-high with 17 points, and his eight points in a two-minute stretch brought the Bobcats to within 69-62 with 1:41 left. But OU missed its next six shots and Toledo closed it out with a 6-0 run.
Ben Roderick chipped in 10 points for Ohio, and Ben Vander Plas added eight points and eight rebounds. Carter and Vander Plas finished a combined 6 of 20 from the field.
Ohio trailed 38-27 at the half but the margin to just six early in the second after a Roderick 3-pointer. But the Bobcats followed with seven straight empty possessions, Toledo rattled off 10 straight points, and the Rockets led 50-34 with 14 minutes remaining. The lead stretched out to as many as 17 before Schmock led a last late charge.
Ohio missed two open 3s and three layups during the critical scoring drought.
“Those are big shots. You just can’t miss those in games like this,” Boals said.
The Bobcats’ last lead of the game at 11-10 less than six minutes in. Ohio tied it three more times after that one-point lead, including 18-18 with 9:56 left in the half.
Then Toledo took control with an 18-4 run – all coming from 2-point buckets or free throws – for a 36-22 lead with three minutes left in the half. The Rockets hit 14 of their first 18 2-point shots, and shot a blazing 61.5 percent in the first half.
The Bobcats remain in a strong position to challenge for the regular-season title. Trailing Toledo by just a half-game, Ohio can draw to even with the Rockets on Thursday night with a win at Central Michigan. That game is a makeup from a COVID-19 postponement in early January.
The Chippewas (6-14, 5-4 MAC) knocked off Ball State – which defeated Toledo on Friday – with an 89-84 overtime win in Muncie, Ind. on Tuesday night.
Ohio’s job now is to try to make sure it doesn’t lose any ground during the rest of what is sure to be a tough week. The Bobcats will stay on the road the entire week, traveling from Toledo to Mount Pleasant, Mich., and then back down to Ypsilanti for a game against EMU on Saturday before heading home.
“We can’t let this game tonight lose the game on Thursday night too,” Boals said.