Toledo’s 17-game winning streak comes to end despite 25 points each from RayJ Dennis and Setric Millner
CLEVELAND, Ohio –Junior guard RayJ Dennis and senior forward Setric Millner Jr. combined for 50 points but it wasn’t enough as Toledo lost to Kent State, 93-78, in the championship game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Saturday.
The loss snapped the Rockets’ school-record 17-game winning streak, tied for the longest streak in the nation with Oral Roberts.
“Obviously it was a tough pill to swallow,” said Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk. “We were extremely confident. Everyone talks about how you want to be playing your best basketball down the stretch. That was us. That was us last year, too. This one hurts more than any of them.”
Dennis and Millner Jr. scored 25 points apiece to lead Toledo (27-7). The only other Rocket in double figures was sophomore guard Ra’Heim Moss, who had 13 points. Dennis and Millner Jr. were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Toledo shot 25-of-59 (42.4%) from the floor, the first time in the last nine games the Rockets were held under 50 percent. Kent State connected on 34-of-61 (55.7%), including a sizzling 20-of-28 (71.4%) in the second half.
The game was close throughout, with Toledo jumping out to early 8-2 and 10-4 leads and only trailing by a point at halftime, 35-34. The Rockets came within a point several times in the second half but could never grab the lead. The Golden Flashes outscored Toledo 33-19 in the final 10 minutes, hitting several big shots at the end of the shot clock. Senior guard Sincere Carry led Kent State with 26 points and was named the tournament MVP.
“I thought we had a good start,” said Kowalczyk. “We were up 10-4. We got stuck on 16 for what felt like forever. I thought we got a little stagnant. They made a run but we responded. We closed out the half strong. At the start of the second half I thought both teams played well. But they made more plays.”
Kowalczyk said that despite the loss it has been an historic season for his team.
“We won 17 straight games and were outright MAC champions for the third straight time, which has never been done by any (current) MAC team,” said Kowalczyk. “I’m proud of these guys. I’m proud of our seniors.”
“We’ve done what no MAC team has done before, winning three outright MAC titles,” added Millner. “It’s just unfortunate that this happened. I wish I could get that 40 minutes back.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Toledo got off to a hot start, taking an 8-2 lead when Dante Maddox Jr. splashed in a three-pointer at the 18:04 mark.
- Kent answered with an 11-4 run that gave it a 13-12 edge with 13:30 to play in the half.
- Toledo regained the lead, 16-13, on an EJ Farmer layup and RayJ Dennis jumper, but the Flashes answered with a 14-0 run that put them up 27-16 and forced UT to call a timeout at the 7:56 mark.
- Setric Millner Jr. then led a Toledo comeback, scoring 11 straight points in an 14-4 run that pulled the Rockets to within one, 31-30, with 2:31 left.
- Toledo took a one-point lead, but KSU’s Malique Jacobs scored on a put-back right before the horn to give the Flashes a 35-34 halftime lead.
- Shumate led Toledo with 15 first-half points.
- Toledo shot 11-of-28 (39.3%) from the field in the first 20 minutes, while KSU converted on 14-of-33 (42.4%) of its attempts.
- Kent State scored first to open the second half, pulling out to a 46-42 at the media break at 15:56.
- KSU upped the lead to six before Dennis led a comeback, scoring 11 of Toledo’s next 15 points to draw the Rockets to within one, 60-59, with 9:47 left.
- Chris Payton answered with back-to-back buckets to increase the KSU lead to 67-61.
- Jacobs then finished off an 8-2 Flash run with a fast-break dunk to make the score 71-63, forcing the Rockets to call timeout with 6:18 to go.
- After Dennis hit back-to-back short jumpers to bring Toledo to within four, 71-67, KSU put together a 7-0 spurt culminated by a Jalen Sullinger three-pointer that made it 78-67 with 3:58 to play and forced UT to use another timeout.
- After a pair of Ra’heim Moss free throws cut the lead to 78-70, KSU answered with a Carry three-pointer that beat the shot clock and a layup by Chris Payton that put the Flashes up 83-70 with 2:29 left. The closest Toledo could get the rest of the way was 11 points.
COURTESY TOLEDO ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS