The Toledo Rockets (11-12) and the Eastern Michigan Eagles (13-10) are both coming into this match-up with a fire lit under them. Both teams had heartbreaking losses, Toledo at the hands of the Bowling Green Falcons in double overtime, and Eastern Michigan to the Northern Illinois Huskies at the Convocation Center.
When: Feb. 7th, 7PM
Where: Savage Arena, Toledo, Ohio
Watch: ESPN 3
Stream: WatchESPN app
Line: Toledo -3.0
Scouting the Rockets
Toledo has not been able to catch a break all season long. The Rockets have lost three in a row, except each of those games have been by four points or less. Their most recent loss to Bowling Green, 104-100, in double overtime was thanks to Zack Denny’s 28 point performance.
Toledo has the superior offense in this showdown. Toledo averages 81.8 points per game, which is second in the MAC, and shoot a solid 48.3% from the field. Toledo has elite scorers in Jonathan Williams and Steve Taylor Jr. Williams is leading the team in scoring with 20.6 points per game, while Taylor is leading the team in boards with an astounding 12.5 per game. This team is gifted offensively they just need to find one more igniter to turn these close losses to wins.
Scouting the Eagles
The Eagles are a lot more balanced than the Rockets are. They have a solid offensive game, averaging 79.4 points per game, but also possess a respectable defense allowing just 71.6 points per game. The Eagles are an explosive defensive team, producing 10.4 steals per game. Toledo is a team that turns the ball over in volume, so if Eastern Michigan can take advantage of that, they could potentially run away with this one.
The Eagles have lacked offensive power in their last two losses. They have been unable to crack the 70 point mark in both these defeats. The burden of scoring cannot be solely on senior guard Willie Mangum IV. Mangum is averaging a team best 15.8 points per game, and 17 points per game in his last three. Other players, especially Eastern Michigan’s deep bench, need to contribute on the offensive end to compliment Mangum’s scoring.
Players to Watch
Jaelan Sanford, Toledo: Arguably Toledo’s hottest player right now, averaging 21.7 points and three triples per game in the Rockets’ last three.
A very versatile scorer, who can find his teammates when he is struggling with his stroke. Sanford shot 29% from the field in their recent loss to Ball State, but he dished out seven assists.
Nate Navigato, Toledo: The sophomore from Geneva played a whopping 44 minutes in Toledo’s double overtime loss to Bowling Green. A forward who has exceptional range. Navigato leads the Rockets in three point field goal percentage at 40.5%.
James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan: Thomspon must be mentioned because he and Steve Taylor Jr. will have a battle on the glass. Thompson and Taylor have both posted games with 20 or more rebounds this season.
Thompson averages 10.8 rebounds per game, and will look to chip in the scoring column as well averaging 14.5 points per game.
Ray Lee, Eastern Michigan: Ray Lee is a fifth year senior and is the leader of this Eagles team. Lee is averaging 13.7 points per game, but will have to bring his leadership in this one to halt their two game losing streak.
Keys to the Game
Toledo will have to control the clock and the ball to compete in this one. If the Rockets limit their turnovers and actually take quality attempts this could be an offensive barrage.
Knowing Toledo’s defense is weak, Eastern Michigan will try to push the ball on offense. Fast transition and a lot of passing will be a winning recipe for the Eagles.
Toledo will come back home after losing a game they definitely should have won. The atmosphere for the Rockets will absolutely be in their advantage. Mad Toledo players and fans will not be good for Eastern Michigan. I believe Eastern Michigan’s offensive lull continues. Rockets win 83-76.