HUNTSVILLE, TX - Strong defensive play down the stretch and back-to-back jumpers from junior G Curtis Dennis in the closing minutes helped UT come away with a thrilling 59-58 road triumph over Sam Houston State in a Sears BracketBuster contest in Johnson Coliseum.
The victory was the Rockets' second-straight road win and improved UT's overall record to 13-14 overall heading into Wednesday evening's home matchup vs. Central Michigan. The Rockets are currently tied for third place in the MAC's West Division and have three of their final four regular-season contests at home.
"We won this game on the defensive end and took care of the ball a lot better than we have been doing," Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "We're continuing to get better and that's a big key for us with just four games remaining. We didn't play great today, but we played hard, weathered the storm and did enough things needed to win a road game."
Sophomore F Reese Holliday paced the Rockets' attack with 14 points, shooting 6-of-7 from the field and 2-of-3 from the perimeter. Also scoring in double figures were sophomore G Rian Pearson (12 pts., team-high seven reb.) and freshman G Julius Brown (12 pts., six reb., team-high eight asst.).
Toledo committed a season-low nine turnovers in the contest in addition to dishing out 18 assists. UT edged out the Bearkats in the shooting department by a 45.3-44.2 margin.
Senior F Steven Werner registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Bearkats with junior G Konner Tucker sharing team scoring honors with 14 points.
But it was Dennis (8 pts., 4 asst.) who gave the Rockets the lead for good with a pair of jumpers with the game tied at 51-51 with less than three minutes to play. Brown then fed Holliday for a layup to give UT a 57-53 advantage with 50.5 seconds remaining.
SHSU was able to climb within a point at 57-56, but Brown knocked down a pair of free throws for a three-point cushion with 14.0 ticks left. Tucker then missed a three-point attempt, but Marcus James tipped it in to reduce UT's lead to one, 59-58, with 4.6 seconds showing on the clock.
Brown then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.6 seconds left, but the ensuing Bearkats' shot from beyond halfcourt was short.