The battle of I-75 lived up to the hype.

The first of two battles between Toledo and Bowling Green this season featured the right blend of excitement, drama and clean execution as Toledo held off BG for an 83-80 victory.

“I thought that was one hell of a basketball game,” BG head coach Dan Dakich said. “Both teams competed and battled and I just thought that was one heck of a game.”

The game started out all BG as an oppressive Savage Hall crowd had no effect on the visiting Falcons. The Falcons were able to mount a 17-8 lead in the early going and took a 44-41 lead into the half.

It was Toledo point guard Justin Ingram that would take a stand for the Rockets. The freshman came out of the locker room firing, scoring 10 of the Rockets’ first 12 points of the second half. Ingram’s play would tie the game up at 52 at the 14:56 mark.

“The play of Ingram at the beginning of the second half was the key to the game,” Dakich said.

“We went into halftime with the lead, and said we were going to win this game,” BG center Kevin Netter said. “We just didn’t come out to play [in the second half].”

The Rockets would use steady shooting to add to their momentum and found themselves up 74-64 with just over five minutes to play. Shooting guard Keith Triplett led the Rocket attack, scoring 12 of his game-high 28 points in a six-minute span.

The Falcons were far from out of the game at this point, though. A 9-0 run helped bring them back into the game and set the score at 74-73 with 4:07 to play.

The battle of I-75 was about to go down to the wire.

Four consecutive free throws from Triplett would put the Rockets back up by five with just over three minutes to play.

The next time up the court, the Falcons were able to get Netter to the line where he connected on both attempts bringing the score to 78-75.

Two free throws for both teams and a John Reimold three-pointer made the score even at 80 with just over a minute to play.

Toledo would hit pay dirt as forward Ricardo Thomas fought his way in for a lay up with 1:23 to play. BG missed their opportunity to tie the game up but was able to force UT to miss their opportunity to go up by four.

The only problem is that the Falcons were unable to corral the rebound and were forced to foul sharp shooter Sammy Villegas with 23 seconds remaining. It appeared that the BG road to victory just got bumpier.

But Villegas made just one free throw, putting BG down by three with a chance to tie.

Time would stop just one more time in the game, and Bowling Green was able to set up a play with seven seconds remaining. The Falcons inbounded to Austin Montgomery, who found a wide open John Reimold on the wing, but Reimold’s last effort rimmed out giving the Rockets the 83-80 victory.

“We got the look we wanted,” Dakich said. “We got it and missed it. But I’d take Reimold on that shot anytime.”

“I was really disappointed [with that play],” UT head coach Stan Joplin said. “He wasn’t supposed to get that shot.”

Triplett would lead all scorers with 28. Ingram followed him in the scoring column for UT with 17 points and Thomas would score nine to go with a career-high 11 rebounds.

BG also had their share of clutch performances. Netter and Ron Lewis each scored 23 for the Falcons. Netter would pull down seven rebounds and swat away five shots to go with his 23 points.

“I think the players enjoyed it and I think the fans enjoyed it,” Joplin said. “This is what a rivalry is all about.