TOLEDO, OH ?? On a day when Toledo??s three leading scorers combined for just 22 points, junior J.D. Weatherspoon stepped forward with a career-high 18 points. Weatherspoon??s performance helped Toledo extend its season-opening win streak to 11 games with a 71-67 triumph over Cleveland State (6-6) in Savage Arena.
The victory improved the Rockets?? record to 11-0, marking the program??s best start in 47 years. It was also the best opening to a season by a Mid-American Conference program since Ball State won its first 11 contests in the 1988-89 season.
Weatherspoon also collected eight rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals in 28 minutes of action en route to his fourth straight game scoring in double figures. Joining Weatherspoon in double digits was sophomore center Nathan Boothe (14 pts., 8 reb.) and senior guard Rian Pearson (11 pts., 5 reb.).
Toledo dominated the glass for a second-straight outing, grabbing a season-high 21 offensive caroms en route to a 45-34 advantage on boards and a 24-5 cushion in second-chance points. The Rockets?? rebounding prowess combined with an 81.5 free-throw percentage (22-of-27) offset a season-low 36.5 shooting mark that saw UT shoot under 40 percent in a half for the first time this year.
Junior guard Juice Brown dished out 10 assists to offset a 1-of-10 shooting performance from the field. The Rockets committed just 10 turnovers as a team and forced the Vikings into 15 miscues.
Sophomore guard Trey Lewis came off the bench to pace the Vikings with a game-high 21 points and seven rebounds.
UT led for the majority of the contest and held a 61-52 advantage with 9:11 remaining following a pair of free throws from junior guard Justin Drummond (9 pts., 5 reb.). CSU went on an 11-2 run, though, and evened the contest at 63-63 on junior guard Charlie Lee??s trey at the 4:30 mark.
Weatherspoon drained two free throws on UT??s next possession to put the Rockets back in front, 65-63, at the 4:12 mark. Toledo was able to get stops on CSU??s next two trips down the court but wasn??t able to extend its lead. Lewis eventually evened the contest with a running jumper with 1:36 to play but Pearson quickly answered with a turnaround from the baseline to put UT up to stay, 67-65, with 1:15 left.
Drummond stole the ball on the Vikings?? next possession and Brown fed Weatherspoon for a dunk and a 69-65 cushion with 21 ticks on the clock.
Cleveland State had a chance to tie the game when Drummond missed the front end of a one-and-one with eight seconds left. However, Drummond made up for the miscue with a steal and two free throws with one second to play.
Toledo now takes some time off for the Christmas holiday and returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 28 for a 2:00 p.m. home matinee vs. Coppin State.
Courtesy: Toledo Athletics