Brigitha scores career-high 33 in last game at Central Michigan
It was like a heavyweight fight with two teams matching each other blow for blow for 40 minutes.
In the end, the Toledo Rockets were three points better than the Central Michigan University Chippewas, 91-88, in the Mid-American Conference Tournament first round on Monday night in Savage Hall.
The Rockets' final blow was a pair of Sammy Villegas free throws with six seconds left that gave UT a three-point cushion. Following a Chippewa timeout, senior T.J. Meerman got a good look at a possible game-tying trey but it was off the mark at the horn.
A fast-paced first half saw Toledo hit its first eight field goal attempts of the game while CMU's first 15 points all came on 3-point field goals. It was tied at 22 with 12:27 left in the first half but CMU went on a 23-10 run to take a 13-point lead. With the Chippewa perimeter players hitting, CMU's post game opened up and Gerrit Brigitha scored 12 of CMU's last 18 points in the first half.
Brigitha, a Niles High School graduate, would go on to a career-high 33 points on 13-of-14 shooting. He missed his first shot of the contest, a baseline fadeaway in the game's opening minutes.
However, Toledo fought back and regained momentum in the opening half's final two minutes. The Rockets ended the frame on a 11-1 run to tie the game. It looked as if CMU would have the final possesion of the half with a three-point lead but a Joe Carr pass off penetration was batted away and Toledo went the other way with four seconds left and Keith Triplett hit a 3-pointer at the horn.
Toledo sophomore Villegas was on fire in the first, hitting 8-of-9 shots, including 6-of-7 three-pointers for 22 points at the break. He went on to finish with 28 points after battling leg cramps in the second.
After a Kevin Nelson 3-pointer opened the second half for CMU, Toledo would hold the lead until 7:27 left in the game when Brigitha would score 12 straight points for CMU . The Rockets won the game at the line over the final seven minutes as they only had one field goal but went 14-for-17 from the stripe.
The Chippewas trailed by two, 88-86, with 21 seconds left when Meerman was fouled in the corner and he went to the line for a one-and-one situation but he missed the first shot. CMU fouled immediately on the miss and Ricardo Thomas went to the line where he split two free throws giving UT a three-point lead. Meerman hit a jumper with 11 seconds left that cut the margin to one and CMU fouled again, sending Villegas to the line for the final two points of the game.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent with the Rockets making 29-of-47 field goals for 62 percent while CMU hit 29-of-53 attempts for 55 percent. CMU hit nine treys in the game and Toledo seven.
CMU ends the season 6-24 while Toledo improves to 19-9.