Toledo Visits NIU Looking to Post School-Record Tying 24th Win - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

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Toledo Visits NIU Looking to Post School-Record Tying 24th Win

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Toledo (23-4, 11-3 MAC) looks to make a little bit of history when it travels to Northern Illinois (12-14, 6-8 MAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 26. With a win over the Huskies, the Rockets will tie their school record of 24 victories in the 1939-40 campaign. Tip-off time for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m. (CT).

• UT is currently tied with Western Michigan (18-8, 11-3 MAC) for the MAC's best record and is one game ahead of Buffalo (16-8, 10-4 MAC) in the overall standings. If the regular season ended today, the Rockets and Broncos would both receive byes in the conference semifinals.

• Toledo registered its third straight victory over the Huskies with a 77-69 home win on Jan. 22 and has an all-time win-loss mark of 5-6 in NIU's Convocation Center.

• Wednesday's matchup pits the MAC's top scoring squad - Toledo at 81.0 ppg - against the league's lowest-scoring unit - NIU at 63.0 ppg.

• The contest will also feature the MAC's top two rebounding teams with the Huskies leading the way at plus-5.1 rpg followed by the Rockets at plus-3.8 rpg. In the first meeting in Savage Arena, UT held a 32-28 advantage on the boards.

• Junior guard Julius Brown ranks seventh in MAC scoring with a team-high 15.0 ppg. Senior guard Rian Pearson and junior guard Justin Drummond rank 10th and 11th in the league with 14.1 and 13.9 ppg, respectively. Junior forward J.D. Weatherspoon is also scoring at an 11.2 clip to go along with a team-high 6.8 rpg. Drummond registered a double-double against NIU with 24 points and 11 rebounds and also made his final nine shots after missing his first two attempts.

• Sophomore forward Darrell Bowie leads Northern Illinois with 9.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg. He tallied 16 points and four rebounds vs. the Rockets earlier this season with sophomore guard Travon Baker netting a team-high 17 points.

Toledo is 8-0 this season in games decided by four points or less.

• The Rockets have made 16 more free throws (537) than their opponents have attempted (521) and are the only MAC program to have more FTs than their opposition's FTAs. UT has a .731 FT% that ranks second in the MAC.

IF THE REGULAR SEASON ENDED TODAY...

Toledo's 11-3 league win-loss mark is currently tied for the best record in the MAC with Western Michigan. The Broncos would be the No. 1 seed if the season ended today due to their home win over UT on Jan. 8, but the two teams will meet again in Savage Arena on March 1. The remaining order of seeds for the tournament would be: 3) Buffalo; 4) Ohio; 5) Akron; 6) Eastern Michigan; 7) Kent State; 8) Northern Illinois; 9) Miami; 10) Bowling Green; 11) Central Michigan; 12) Ball State.

CLOSING IN ON A SCHOOL RECORD

Toledo is just one win away from tying its school record for most victories in a season — 24 in the 1939-40 season. The Rockets have notched their first 20-win campaign since 2005-06 as well as their 19th 20-win in school history.

Below is a listing of most wins in school history.

1. 1939-40 24

2. 2013-14 23

1979-80 23

1966-67 23

1941-42 23

UT MATCHES SECOND-BEST UNDEFEATED START IN SCHOOL HISTORY

Toledo's 12-0 start to its season matched the second-most wins to start a season in school history. The Rockets' school record is 14 at the beginning of the 1966-67 season.

 

A ROCKET VICTORY OVER NORTHERN ILLINOIS WOULD...

• Improve UT's record to 24-4 overall and 12-3 in MAC play.

• Tie Toledo's school record of 24 victories set in the 1939-40 campaign.

• Keep the Rockets in at least a tie for the MAC's best league record. UT is currently tied with Western Michigan and one game ahead of Buffalo.

• Give Toledo its fourth straight victory over the Huskies in the overall series and second consecutive win in the Convocation Center.

• Improve the Rockets' road record to 8-4 this season. The last time UT posted a winning record away from home was an 11-7 ledger in 2000-01.

 

ROCKETS RANKING AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS

Toledo's impressive play in the 2013-14 campaign has been buoyed by a high-scoring offense that ranks 16th nationally in the latest national rankings (through games played Sunday, Feb. 23) with 82.0 ppg. The Rockets also rank in the Top 35 in assist/turnover ratio (26th/1.40) and turnover margin (26th/+3.0).

 

TALKING ABOUT UT'S HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE ...

Toledo has won 27 of its last 32 home games (including 17 of its last 20 vs. MAC opponents) dating back to 2011-12 and is 13-0 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 Coach Tod 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.

 

TALKING ABOUT UT'S HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE (PART II)...

Toledo's 14-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 14 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 13.5 ppg with five games decided by less than nine points — a 71-67 win over Cleveland St. (Dec. 21), a 67-65 buzzer-beating victory over Buffalo (Jan. 15), an 81-78 triumph over Kent State (Jan. 26), an 83-76 win over Bowling Green (Feb. 5) and an 82-76 victory over Ohio (Feb. 12).

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.

The last time UT won each of its first 13 home games was when it posted a perfect 14-0 ledger in the Field House its 1966-67 campaign.

 

... AND ROAD SUCCESS DEVELOPING AS WELL

The Rockets have won 10 of their last 15 road tilts dating back to the 2012-13 season. 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. This year, the Rockets are 8-4 on the road.

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 ranks second in the MAC with plus-3.8 rebounding margin but has been on the short end of the stick on the boards in its last three games as well as four out of its last five. 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 also ranks fifth in the MAC in league play with a plus-2.2 rebounding margin, highlighted by a 42-28 advantage at Akron (Jan. 18) and a 44-26 cushion at Miami (Jan. 29).

Toledo has five players averaging 3.5 rpg or better with junior F J.D. Weatherspoon setting the pace at 6.8 rpg. Also making key contributions on the glass are senior G Rian Pearson (5.0), junior G Justin Drummond (5.0), sophomore C Nathan Boothe (4.7) and freshman G Jordan Lauf (3.7).

 

SHARPSHOOTERS

Toledo paces the MAC with its 47.3 FG% and 35.4 three-point FG%. The Rockets are also second in the conference with their 73.1 free-throw percentage (behind Miami's 75.0%).

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 57.1 FG% (36-of-63) but doesn't qualify for the MAC rankings. Junior J.D. Weatherspoon ranks fourth in the league at 54.7% (105-of-192) with junior Justin Drummond (50.9%, 110-of-216) in 13th place.

Junior Julius Brown ranks third in the MAC with a career-high 87.4 free-throw percentage (97-of-111), while Drummond is 11th with a 74.2 mark (121-of-163). Sophomore Nathan Boothe ranks second on the team with an 87.0 FT% (47-of-54) but doesn't qualify for the league rankings. (Note: Only players who have made 2.0 FTs/game qualify.)

 

SPREADING THE SCORING AROUND

Toledo has five players scoring 9.0 ppg or more with four of them ranking among the MAC's Top 25 scorers. Julius "Juice" Brown leads the way with 15.0 ppg (7th in MAC) followed by Rian Pearson (14.1/10th), Justin Drummond (13.9/11th) and J.D. Weatherspoon (11.2/23rd).

Each of the aforementioned quartet has paced the Rockets in scoring this season with Brown leading the way on 10 occasions and Drummond and Pearson setting the pace eight times apiece. Weatherspoon, sophomore Nathan Boothe and freshman Jonathan Williams have led UT in scoring once each.

 

Rockets' Season Finale at EMU to Tip Off at Noon on Saturday, March 9

The final University of Toledo men's basketball game of the 2013-14 season vs. Eastern Michigan will be played on Saturday, March 8 at 2:00 p.m. The contest will be televised by Time Warner Cable's SportsChannel and will be the sixth home game televised on that network this season. The Rockets also have had three road contests nationally televised on ESPNU.

 

ON THE HORIZON

Toledo returns to Savage Arena for a showdown with Western Michigan (18-8, 11-3 MAC) on Saturday, March 1 (6:00 p.m.). The Broncos and Rockets are tied for the best record in the MAC and would both advance directly in the conference semifinals if the season ended today.