The University of Toledo men’s basketball team got off to a hot-shooting start and never trailed as it took down the preseason Mid-American Conference favorite Western Michigan 84-61 on Tuesday night at Savage Arena.
Marreon Jackson and Tre’Shaun Fletcher hit three 3-pointers each in the first in the first 12 minutes as the Rockets raced out to a 27-9 lead with 8:45 left in the first half.
(1) University of Toledo guard Tre'Shaun Fletcher (4) shoots against Western Michigan center Drake LaMont (42).
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Fletcher led Toledo (10-6, 2-1 MAC) with 21 points, eight rebounds, and season-best eight assists. Jaelan Sanford and Luke Knapke added 16 points each, while Marreon Jackson scored 13 points.
“It’s a huge win,” Fletcher said. “Our coaching staff told us that they were going to be physical. I think we came out and we were focused and we got the job done tonight. I think we can just build from this win. They had 61 points and they had 28 points at halftime. If we give up 30 points in each half, that’s really good defensively. We missed a lot of shots, but we still had 84 points. That just shows if we take care of it better and rebound it better, the sky is the limit for this team.”
Thomas Wilder paced Western Michigan (10-6, 2-1 MAC) with 28 points and Bryce Moore added 16 points.
Wilder was 11-of-23 from the field and added 10 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds.
“I thought defensively, it was a really good effort,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Thomas Wilder is a heck of a player. He had 18 points at halftime and he earned a lot of those. What we call snaking the ball screen; he just snaked the screens a lot and made some runners and off-balance shots. We put some different guys on him, but he is a heck of a player.”
After Toledo got out to its 18 point lead in the first half, Western Michigan went on a 19-9 run to close the half, as Toledo led 36-28 at halftime.
(1) University of Toledo guard Tre'shaun Fletcher blocks a shot against Western Michigan guard Thomas Wilder (10).
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Wilder provided the early offense for the Broncos, scoring 18 of his team’s 28 first-half points as well as the first 14 points that his team scored. He was 7-of-13 in the opening half.
In the second half, the Broncos cut the lead to six points on two different occasions, the last time coming after a layup from Moore cut the Toledo lead to 44-38 with 14:02 left.
Toledo quickly answered with a 3-pointer from Knapke and then a 3-point play after a drive and dunk by Fletcher.
“I don’t think there was concern,” Fletcher said. “I think we were just caught up in not trying to lose instead of going out there and trying to win. I just called the guys over and said, ‘Let’s keep our foot on the gas’. We got some stops and made a couple more shots and just extended the lead.”
After a layup by Western Michigan’s Drake Lamont, Sanford and Fletcher knocked down 3-pointers, and Toledo’s lead was back to a comfortable 14 points at 56-42 with 11:22 left. That was the closest the Broncos would get the rest of the game.
Toledo finished the game shooting 56.5 percent from the 3-point line including a 7-for-9 effort in the second half.
“We had some guys not shooting the ball well too,” Kowalczyk said. “Nate Navigato didn’t make shots until the end. When we have everyone clicking, we are hard to defend. We have four, sometimes five, guys who are not just capable 3-point shooters, but really good 3-point shooters. That makes us really hard to defend. We like to recruit guys who can shoot the ball and what it does is it spaces the floor and gives guys opportunities to be special off the dribble.”
Sanford was limited in the first half after picking up two personal fouls early, but made an impact in the second half.
“I’m really proud of Jaelan for the fact that he only had two points and because of foul trouble never got into the flow in the first half,” Kowalczyk said. “He didn’t let that affect him and in the second he played really, really sound on both ends.”
After the big home win, Toledo will be back on the road on Saturday to face a surprising Central Michigan team.
“This is a good win,” Fletcher said. “We celebrated and now it’s over with and we have to get ready to go up there and get a win at Central Michigan.”
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