Toledo Hosts MAC East Division Co-Leader Buffalo on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.
• Toledo (13-2, 1-1 MAC) opens a week against two teams tied for first place in the MAC’s East Division when it hosts Buffalo (8-4, 2-0 MAC) on Wednesday, Jan. 15 in Savage Arena. Tip-off time is set for 7:00 p.m.
• The Rockets rolled to an 86-71 triumph over Central Michigan last Saturday, while the Bulls won their fourth straight game with a 76-66 home victory over Eastern Michigan.
• Wednesday’s matchup features the MAC’s top offensive team against one of the top defensive squads. UT leads the MAC with 85.3 ppg, 48.9 FG% and 35.5 3PTFG%, while Buffalo ranks first in 3PTFG% defense (27.9) and third in FG% defense (39.9).
• All five of Toledo’s starters are averaging in double figures in the scoring column, led by senior G Rian Pearson at 15.7 ppg. Pearson sits fourth in the MAC in scoring and has ranked among the league’s top four scorers in each of his three seasons as a Rocket.
• Junior guard Julius Brown ranks third in the nation with 7.3 apg and tops the MAC with a 2.9 assist/turnover ratio. He has registered three double-doubles this season, including 15 points and 12 assists vs. CMU last Saturday.
• Brown needs just 11 points to become the 42nd Rocket ever to score 1,000 career points. He also would be just the fourth UT player ever to top 1,000 points and dish out 400 career assists.
• Senior forward Javon McCrea leads Buffalo in points (16.8 ppg), rebounds (9.6 rpg), blocks (3.0 bpg) and steals (1.8) and appears among the conference leaders in each category. In three games against the Rockets, he is averaging 12.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg.
• McCrea has helped the Bulls lead the MAC in blocked shots (6.3 bpg). In addition, UB senior guard Jarod Oldham ranks second in the league with 5.5 apg.
UT TO APPEAR ON ESPN FAMILY OF NETWORKS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 2009
Toledo’s contest at Akron on Saturday, Jan. 18 will be televised across the nation on ESPNU. Tip-off time for the game is set for 11:00 a.m. ET.
The matchup vs. the Zips will be the Rockets’ first nationally televised game since appearing on ESPN2 on Jan. 31, 2009 at Buffalo.
UT will also have a second game on ESPNU when it visits Athens, OH on Saturday, Feb. 1 to face the Ohio Bobcats. Tip-off time is set for 1:00 p.m. ET.
A ROCKET VICTORY OVER BUFFALO WOULD...
• Improve UT’s record to 14-2 and give the Rockets a two-game winning streak.
• Improve the Rockets’ conference record to 2-1.
• Snap Toledo’s six-game losing streak to the Bulls and mark UT’s first win over Buffalo since a 76-63 home win on Jan. 26, 2008.
• Keep the Rockets unbeaten in eight home contests this season.
• Extend Toledo’s homecourt win streak to nine games dating back to last year.
ROCKETS RANKING AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS
Toledo’s red-hot start to the 2013-14 campaign has been buoyed by a high-scoring offense that was tied for 11th nationally in the latest national rankings (through games played Sunday, Jan. 12) with 85.3 ppg. The Rockets also ranked in the Top 25 in assist/turnover ratio (8th/1.65), fewest turnovers per game (10th/9.8), field-goal percentage (18th/49.0), turnover margin (20th/+3.7) and assists per game (21st/16.2).
TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE ...
Toledo has won 21 of its last 26 home games (including 11 of its last 14 vs. MAC opponents) dating back to 2011-12 and is 7-0 this season. UT posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena in 2011-12 for its first winning home record since the 2007-08 campaign when it registered a 9-3 mark. After experiencing just one losing home campaign (7-9 in 1991-92) in the previous 51 years, the Rockets notched 6-7, 4-11 and 4-12 win-loss marks for a combined 14-30 (.318) ledger over the previous three years (2008-11) in Savage Arena.
Head CoachTod Kowalczyk posted a 76-28 home record (.731) during his eight-year Green Bay tenure. In his last three seasons, the Phoenix were even better at home by posting a 35-9 (.795) win-loss mark.
Prior to the last three seasons, UT had posted a 55-8 (.873) home record for a five-year period from 2003-08 and was 107-23 (.823) on its homecourt from 1998-2008.
TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE (PART II)...
Toledo’s eight-game homecourt win streak is its longest since winning seven in a row from Dec. 8, 2007-Feb. 13, 2008.
The last time the Rockets won eight or more consecutive home contests was a 15-game unbeaten stretch from Jan. 26, 2006-Feb. 17, 2007.
During UT’s current streak, the Rockets’ average margin of victory is 18.9 ppg with just one game decided by less than 10 points - a 71-67 win over Cleveland State on Dec. 21.
The last time Toledo opened its season with more than seven straight home victories was when it won its initial eight contests of the 2006-07 campaign. That season, the Rockets posted a 10-1 home ledger and were 8-0 in conference home games en route to capturing the 2006-07 MAC regular-season title.
... AND ROAD SUCCESS STARTING TO DEVELOP AS WELL
The Rockets have won six of their last eight road tilts dating back to the 2012-13 season as well as eight of their last 11 games as a visitor. Toledo won four of its last five road contests last year with wins at Ball State, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan and its only loss at Buffalo.
UT’s success on the road is a welcome departure from a four-year stretch (2007-11) that saw the Rockets win just one true road game out of 63 contests. Included during that period was a 47-game road losing streak that ended on Nov. 20, 2011 at Texas-Pan American.
CLEANING THE GLASS
Toledo is out-rebounding its opponents by 5.3 rpg, a figure that ranks second in the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets are on pace to grab more rebounds than their opponents for an entire season for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign when UT held a plus-0.5 advantage.
Toledo has five players averaging 4.4 rpg or better with junior F J.D. Weatherspoon setting the pace at 5.9 rpg. Also making key contributions on the glass are senior G Rian Pearson (5.3), freshman G Jordan Lauf (4.6), sophomore C Nathan Boothe (4.4) and junior G Justin Drummond (4.4).
Lauf and Pearson are tied for the team lead with 27 offensive boards and has played a big role in helping UT average 12.7 offensive rpg this season, an increase of 2.7 rpg from a year ago.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk places a high emphasis on keeping turnovers at a premium and that attention to detail has played a big factor in UT’s red-hot start to the 2013-14 campaign. The Rockets lead the MAC and rank 10th nationally with just 9.8 miscues per contest.
Toledo committed 13.6 turnovers per contest in 2011-12 and an even more impressive total of 12.0 miscues per game in 2012-13.
Kowalczyk’s teams at Green Bay averaged fewer than 14.0 miscues per game in each of his last seven seasons at the Phoenix helm, including an impressive 11.7 in 2006-07 and 12.4 in 2009-10.
Toledo leads the MAC with its 48.9 FG% and 35.5 three-point FG%. The Rockets are also third in the conference with their 73.5 free-throw percentage (behind CMU’s 75.9% and Miami’s 74.1%).
UT has paced the MAC at the charity stripe each of the last two seasons, posting a 72.6 mark in 2011-12 and ranking eighth nationally in 2012-13 with a 76.1 clip.
Freshman Jordan Lauf tops the Rockets with a 63.6 FG% (21-of-33) but doesn’t qualify for the MAC rankings. Junior J.D. Weatherspoon ranks eighth in the league at 55.6% (55-of-99) with Rian Pearson (95-of-177) and Justin Drummond (67-of-128) in 11th and tied for 12th place at 53.7 and 52.3 percent, respectively.
Senior Matt Smith ranks 10th in the league with a 40.0 three-point FG% (16-of-40) with Pearson leading the Rockets with a career-best 41.9 mark (13-of-31). Pearson is just shy of qualifying for the league rankings as he has made 13 treys in 15 contests. (Note: Only players who have made 1.0 3PTFG/game qualify.)
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo visits MAC East Division co-leader Akron (10-5, 2-0 MAC) on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 11:00 a.m. The Rockets will return home for a pair of games next week vs. Northern Illinois on Wednesday, Jan. 22 (7:00 p.m.) and Kent State on Sunday, Jan. 26 (6:00 p.m.).