Toledo Squeaks Past No. Illinois, 78-77

Rockets move on in MAC tournament play


March 9, 2006

CLEVELAND (AP) - Justin Ingram made two free throws with 9.4 seconds left as Toledo continued its late-season rush, holding off Northern Illinois 78-77 in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament on Thursday.

The Rockets (19-10) led by 21 points in the second half but nearly gave it all back to the Huskies (17-11), who closed within 76-75 on Craig Reichel's 3-pointer from the corner with 10.8 seconds left.

But Ingram, the MAC's top free-throw shooter this season at 87.4 percent, calmly swished both attempts before Toledo coach Stan Joplin called a timeout.

Huskies guard Anthony Maestranzi missed a game-tying 3-pointer, and Mike McKinney's tip-in got Northern Illinois within one with less than a second left. Toledo then inbounded the ball to seal its sixth straight win and ninth in a row vs. MAC schools.

Sammy Villegas scored a season-high 18 points - 13 in the first half - and Florentino Valencia added 18 for the Rockets, who will play the winner of the quarterfinal between Akron and Western Michigan in Friday's semifinals.

Valencia went 4 of 5 on 3-pointers and Villegas was 3-for-4, nailing a couple from well beyond NBA 3-point range.

Todd Peterson, a senior playing his final game, led the Huskies with 21 points and McKinney had 12.

Toledo was up 48-27 early in the second half when the Huskies began chipping away. Down by eight with less than four minutes left, Northern Illinois pulled within 70-67 on three free throws by Peterson with 1:35 remaining.

But Ingram hit a 3-pointer, and both Valencia and Ingram made two free throws apiece in the final 25 seconds. Ingram finished with 15 points, and Justin Howell also had 15 for the Rockets, who won their only MAC tournament title in 1980.

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