Toledo (23-6, 11-5 MAC) can capture its second straight Mid-American Conference West Division title on Tuesday, March 5 when it hosts Western Michigan (8-21, 2-14 MAC). Tip-off time is set for 7:00 p.m. with the contest being streamed on ESPN-Plus.
The Rockets enter Tuesday's game with a two-game lead over Central Michigan with just two games remaining in the regular season. Toledo has already clinched a first-round bye in the 2019 MAC Tournament and are currently the No. 3 seed. Buffalo (26-3, 14-2 MAC) owns the No. 1 seed with Bowling Green (20-9, 12-4 MAC) having the No. 2 seed.
UT has won three outright MAC West Division titles (1998-99, 2006-07, 2017-18) and has shared West crowns on five more occasions (1999-2000, 2004-05, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2018-19) since the conference went to the division format in the 1997-98 season.
Toledo never trailed for a second straight game in Saturday's 80-68 triumph at CMU, a victory that gave the Rockets a first-round bye for the fourth time in last six years. The duo of senior Jaelan Sanford and junior Luke Knapke led Toledo with 19 points with sophomore Marreon Jackson contributing 18 points. Knapke also tied his career high with five blocked shots and dished out a team-high four assists.
Knapke helped Toledo equal its school record with 11 blocks, the second time this season the Rockets blocked 11 Chippewa shots. Freshman AJ Edu tallied four blocks with senior Nate Navigato and junior Willie Jackson rejecting one apiece.
UT swept its series vs. the Broncos last season for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign and is 40-of-78 (.513) from three-point range in its last three games vs. WMU.
Western Michigan dropped its first 10 MAC games before winning two of three. The Broncos have lost their last three games by a total of eight points.
Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Tip-Off: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Toledo, Ohio.
Arena: Savage Arena (7,014).
Streaming: ESPN+. Mason Lowry will provide play-by-play for broadcast with Jay Gast serving as analyst.
Radio: Rocket Radio Network. WSPD (1370 AM) in Toledo. Brent Balbinot will provide play-by-play for broadcast with Jay Lehman serving as analyst.
Series: Toledo leads 84-63. UT has won three straight games vs. WMU for the first time since March 1, 2006 - Feb. 25, 2007.
- Toledo has won 20 games for the fourth time in the last six years. UT's 23 victories have tied last year's win total and are one shy of the second most in UT history.
- UT ranks eighth nationally (as of March 3) with its 77.4 FT%. The Rockets also rank in the Top 25 nationally in defensive rebounds per game (29.5/8th), rebounds per game (40.0/15th), assists per game (16.7/16th) and three-point field goals per game (9.7/25th).
- UT leads the MAC in FT% (77.4), three-point FG% (37.3), three-point FGs per game (9.7), blocked shots per game (4.7) and defensive RPG (29.5). The Rockets are second in scoring defense (68.4 ppg), FG% defense (40.7), scoring margin (+9.4), rebounding margin (plus-4.8), assists per game (16.7) and A/TO ratio (1.4).
- Toledo is the only school in the MAC to have four individuals rank in the Top 30 scoring leaders in league play - Jaelan Sanford (14.1/17th), Marreon Jackson (13.8/18th), Luke Knapke (11.6/28th) and Nate Navigato (11.4/T-29th).
Jaelan Sanford leads the MAC with an 84.5 FT% and is 10th with a team-high 15.7 ppg. The Evansville, Ind. native ranks sixth on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,732 points and is 25 points behind Jonathan Williams (2013-17).
- Sanford is also fourth on UT's career three-point field-goal list with 232. He is second in career minutes played (4,231), trailing only Juice Brown (2011-15) with 4,327.
- Sanford registered his lone two career double-doubles with 12 points and a career-high 11 boards at Bowling Green (Feb. 9) and 24 points and 10 rebounds vs. Buffalo (Feb. 15).
- Nate Navigato ranks 11th nationally with a 45.1 three-point FG%. Navigato holds the UT record for career three-point FGs and ranks second in MAC history with 298 treys. Navigato ranks 16th on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,369 points.
- Willie Jackson ranks fourth in the MAC with 9.2 rpg. He has eight double-doubles and has led or shared the team lead in rebounding on 20 occasions. Jackson dished out a career-high five assists to go along with nine points and 13 boards at Kent State (Jan. 22).
- Two Rockets rank in the MAC's Top 5 in three different categories:
Three-point FG% - Nate Navigato (45.1/2nd) and Luke Knapke (40.8/5th)
Free-throw percentage - Jaelan Sanford (84.5/1st) and Chris Darrington (83.7/2nd) Blocked shots per game - AJ Edu (1.7/2nd) and Luke Knapke (1.5/3rd)
- Marreon Jackson ranks fifth in the MAC with 4.2 apg and eighth with 1.4 spg. He ranks second on the team with 13.8 ppg in MAC play and scored a season-high 20 points in each of the Rockets' games vs. Buffalo. Jackson earned MAC West Division Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 18.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 apg and 2.0 with a 59.1 FG% and 53.8 3PTFG% last week.
- Luke Knapke leads the MAC in league play with 1.9 bpg and ranks third in MAC play with a 59.8 FG% Knapke is third on UT's all-time blocked shot list with 132 blocks, six behind J.C. Harris (1989-92) and 23 behind Nathan Boothe (2012-16).
- Chris Darrington comes off the bench and ranks fifth on the team with a 9.4 scoring mark. He leads UT in free throws made (77) and free throws attempted (92) despite playing just 15.3 mpg. Darrington scored a career-high 21 points at Buffalo (Jan. 8) and he tallied 20 points in 20 minutes off the bench at Bowling Green (Feb. 9).
- AJ Edu ranks second in the MAC with 1.6 blocks per game and is tied for third with 1.6 bpg in league play. He registered a season-high five rejections vs. Cornell (Dec. 19), Ball State (Jan. 4) and Ohio (Jan. 18) and his 48 rejections are third most in UT history.
- The Rockets have won 23 victories each of last two years, a win total that is tied for third most in school history and one away from the second-best win total (24 in 1939-40). Toledo won a school-record 27 games under Coach Kowalczyk in the 2013-14 campaign.
SOME TEAM STATISTICAL TIDBITS
- Fourteen of UT's 23 wins have been by 11 points or more.
- Toledo is 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less. The Rockets have won 12 of 15 games decided by five points or less since the start of last season.
- Toledo has five players shooting 76.0 percent or better from the free-throw line.
- Toledo is 19-3 when outrebounding its opponent.
- Toledo has held double-digit rebounding advantages against 11 opponents, including a plus-25 effort vs. Detroit Mercy (Dec. 5) and a plus-22 outing vs. Cornell (Dec. 19).
- Toledo is 19-1 when holding its opponent under 45 percent shooting from the field. UT is 22-2 when holding its opponent under 80 points.
- UT is 21-2 when leading or tied with five minutes to play.
- The Rockets are 11-0 on games played on Saturday this season.
ROCKETS RECEIVE FOURTH BYE IN LAST SIX YEARS
Toledo has secured a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament for the fourth time in the last six years. Buffalo is the only MAC school with more automatic trips to Cleveland.
The Rockets advanced to the MAC Championship Game after receiving first-round byes in 2014 and 2018 and reached the semifinals in 2015.
LEFTOVER NOTES FROM THE CENTRAL MICHIGAN GAME
- The Rockets are 6-2 vs. MAC West Division teams and 6-3 in MAC road games this season.
- Toledo swept its season series vs. CMU for a second-straight season and has won its last five meetings against the Chippewas.
- Toledo's 52.4 field-goal percentage was its best in conference action this season.
- The Rockets tied their school season record of 135 blocked shots set by last year's team. UT's school-record 11 blocks extended their school record in MAC play to 86 blocked shots.
- Toledo's three free throws and four free-throw attempts were season lows.
SOME INFO ON THE ROCKETS' OPPONENT
Senior center Seth Dugan leads Western Michigan with 16.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 24 blocks. Sophomore guard Michael Flowers ranks second in team scoring with 15.7 ppg.
The Broncos ranks last in the MAC in scoring defense (75.9) and three-point FG% defense (36.4) and are 11th with a 42.9 field-goal percentage.
Toledo ranks second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense (68.4 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (40.7) and is fourth in three-point FG% defense (31.7). The Rockets also rank No. 32 nationally with their 40.7 FG% defense.
Last year, UT ranked seventh in scoring defense (74.5) and fifth in field-goal percentage defense (43.7) and three-point FG% defense (34.3).
ON THE HORIZON
The Rockets will close out their regular season with a home game vs. Eastern Michigan (14-15, 8-8 MAC) on Friday, March 8.