TOLEDO, OH - Freshman G Jake Barnett's driving layup with 11 seconds remaining lifted Toledo (3-7) to a 73-72 triumph over IPFW (2-5) and sent the fans home happy on Thursday evening at Savage Arena. Junior F Mouhamed Lo followed Barnett's bucket by blocking a shot to seal the victory and give the Rockets their third victory in the last four contests.
"IPFW took a lead at the end and we drew up a play for Jake," Toledo Head Coach Gene Cross said. "I've said it a million times and I'll keep saying it, but there is no other person on this team that I'd rather have take the last shot than Jake Barnett. Justin (Anyijong) got Jake free, Jake made a play and Mouhamed (Lo) was ready to rebound."
"The play was designed for me to come off a pick and roll," Barnett said. "I came off it and knew when I turned the corner that I wasn't giving it up. (IPFW's Jeremy) Mixon stepped up, and I was happy he didn't take a charge and that the shot went in. Our team really stepped up tonight, and we had a lot of guys contribute for us. I just happened to have the ball in my hands at the end and hit the shot, but it doesn't take anything away from what the rest of the team accomplished tonight."
The Rockets held a 70-63 advantage with 2:30 remaining but saw the Mastodons go on a 9-1 run to set the stage for Barnett's heroics. Head Coach Gene Cross wasn't pleased his young club let that lead slip away, but saw the game's finish as a plus since it was the first time UT had a game decided in the final minute this season.
"It was disappointing that we let the lead slip away but in the same breath it was probably good for us to experience a game like this," Cross said. "Our young guys haven't dealt with these end-of-game situations before with the game still in the balance."
and sophomore G Jay Shunnar shared team scoring honors with 16 points apiece,
while Lo was a perfect 7-of-7 from the field en route to a 15-point performance.
A walk-on sophomore, Shunnar also dished out five assists in a season-high 29 minutes after scoring seven points in 27 minutes vs. Wright State on Tuesday.
"I'm almost speechless about Jay's performance," Cross said. "Jay has earned his playing time in practice, and to his credit he has taken full advantage of it. I'm proud of him. He does things Division I basketball players do, and that's what he is."
Shunnar said, "I think the coaches are starting to trust me. I think if you practice hard and prove yourself, your time will come."
Lo's offensive showing played a big part in the Rockets posting a season-best 56.0 field-goal percentage.
"We need Mouhamed to play solid for us and that's what he was tonight." Cross said. "He made only one or two mistakes that I can remember, and we need him to play like this to be a good basketball team."
Toledo fell behind by a 10-3 margin four minutes into the game but ended up taking a 42-35 lead into intermission. Three straight three-point bombs late in the half was the big difference and gave UT a 40-30 advantage. Redshirt freshman G Stephen Albrecht hit the first two and Shunnar capped it off with his third trey of the half.
"We can't seem to get out of the gates," Cross said. "We wound up battling back by making some good offensive plays and shooting the ball extremely well. We also came out sluggish in the second half and they started attacking us off the dribble. We have to do a better job of getting stops and keeping teams out of our paint and off the free-throw line."
The Rockets will now conclude their busy week with a trip to Valparaiso, IN to face the Crusaders (3-6). Tip-off time is set for 2:00 p.m. CST.