Thirteen years. That's how long it had been since a Toledo Rockets' men's basketball team went into James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio and came out with a victory. Saturday morning Tod Kowalczyk's boys went into the mighty J.A.R. and did the unthinkable; they pummeled Akron—the reigning MAC champion, and bullies of the MAC—in a 75-61 win.
Since the start of the 2012 conference season the Zips had dominated the MAC, posting a 30-5 record while claiming back-to-back MAC regular season championships. Even more impressive, Akron entered Saturday having won 43 of its last 46 home contests, and owning a 7-game winning streak against Toledo. But none of that mattered Saturday morning as Toledo made a statement on the backs of spectacular performances from Julius Brown and J.D. Weatherspoon.
The Rockets (15-2, 3-1 MAC) hit the ground running from the start with Weatherspoon dominating the glass early. The transfer forward finished the game with a career-high 20 points, and 14 rebounds, and was a key part of Toledo's early lead. With Weatherspoon controlling the paint, Akron (11-6, 3-1 MAC) struggled to assert its own tempo on the game. The Zips were able to cut the Rockets' lead several times in the first half thanks to a strong performance from Demetrius Treadwell, and a trio of clutch threes by Jake Kretzer, but it was never enough to knock Toledo off its game.
Treadwell finished the game with his sixth double-double with 18 points and 10 boards, and Kretzer finished the game with 14 points, but went 4-for-10 from three point land.
Led by expert guard play from Juice Brown, Toledo reasserted its tempo every time the Zips cut the lead. By halftime the Rockets were up by nine and in firm control of the game. Brown, who's been on fire lately and won Toledo its last game on a buzzer-beater, finished with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
With Justin Drummond coming off the bench Toledo was able to neutralize Akron sixth man Quincy Diggs, who finished with just eight points on 2-of-7 from the field, and by the time the second half rolled around Toledo took full control and never let the Zips fully back into the game despite strong second-half performances from Treadwell and forward Nick Harney, who was the third and final Zip to notch double-digit scoring figures with 11 points.
Toledo set the tone for the game with Weatherspoon and Nathan Boothe—who added 10 points and seven boards of his own—dominating the glass and Brown controlling breakneck tempo. The Rockets exposed the flaws of Akron's lack of solid guard play, and forced the Zips to settle for sloppy threes that rarely fell. The Zips, made just five of their 19 attempts form behind the arc, and were beat 42-28 on the boards.
Even with less than ideal performances from Rian Pearson and Drummond, who combined for just 10 points on the game (less than half of their combined average) the Rockets offense was able to show why its one of the most efficient the country and notch a huge conference win in the process.
The Rockets keep at least a share of the MAC West lead with the win, whereas Akron falls out of sole possession of first place in the East. Toledo returns to action Wednesday vs NIU at 7 p.m., and Akron continues its tour of Western foes with a tough road test at Eastern Michigan on Wednesday at 7 p.m. as well.