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Just Saying: Blasting off on Toledo

Toledo Basketball - Flags

Another week down of MAC hoops, and now we’ve seen some of our squads play against some strong competition.

Last week I noted that Toledo had a daunting lineup of games placed before it, and now here’s a chance to look back and see how the Rockets performed.

The Rockets tried their hands against Middle Tennessee State, a staple of strength in mid-major hoops for a few years now, twice. Toledo was never really a threat to defeat the Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro last Tuesday, having never tied or led after MTSU’s first bucket, but kept things much tighter in the Challenge in Music City on Saturday.

In the first matchup, MTSU outperformed the Rockets around the basket in several ways. Forwards Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams combined for 34 points on an effective 15-of-24 shooting and the Blue Raiders outrebounded Toledo 40-32.

The Rockets got a combined 17 rebounds from Steve Taylor Jr. and freshman Luke Knapke, the latter figuring in prominently for a MAC freshman. Aside from Taylor, the other four Rocket starters managed to combine for just three boards in 86 total minutes of play.

To give you an idea of how unafraid opponents are living around the bucket, Toledo’s opponents are shooting 3’s on just 20.6 percent of their shots. As of Sunday night, literally no other team in the nation was having a lower percentage of their shots attempted against them from beyond the arc. As Bone Crusher said, “I ain’t never scared.” It is early though, this could easily be an anomaly.

The next time around (Saturday), Toledo kept things closer in a 73-70 overtime loss. JaCorey Williams still had 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting, but Toledo actually outrebounded MTSU 42-28. Taylor grabbed 17 of those alone. Jonathan Williams and Jaelan Sanford led the way with 15 points apiece.

Let’s get away from the Blue Raiders here though.

The aforementioned Knapke had himself something of a mini-coming out party. The 6-11 235-pound frosh demonstrated his skills from inside and out in a chaotic 83-79 overtime win over Evansville Friday. Knapke made seven of his 12 shots, knocked down two from distance, grabbed seven boards, blocked two shots, assisted on three buckets and had two turnovers in 40 minutes of play. Toledo outpaced Evansville in overtime 20-16 as Jaylon Brown did all he could to keep the Aces in the thick of things with 39 points.

Coming off of consecutive overtime games, the Rockets ran into a UNC-Wilmington buzzsaw Sunday. The Seahawks plastered a big ole 60 on the scoreboard in the second half of a 102-77 win over Toledo.

UNCW harassed Toledo into 18 turnovers while the Seahawks themselves committed just 4.

The Rockets could not buckle down on defense once again, and allowed the Seahawks to shoot 56.7 percent from the floor. Seven different players scored at least 8 points for the Rockets’ opponent.

Another quick note on that Rockets defense. Teams are scoring effectively in transition against the Rockets and in the halfcourt. Opponents’ estimated field goal percentage (stat that bridges value of 2-pt and 3-pt shots) is 62.3. That’s not too good. Things actually aren’t so bad in the halfcourt. So again, I’ll keep this in mind when more data is available.

In all, Toledo is sort of a weird team in that you don’t expect any one player to score a lot of points, but you know you can expect the like of Williams, Taylor Jr., and Sanford to score in the mid-teens. Other than that, have fun guessing where Knapke, Jordan Lauf and Nate Navigato and more are going to come in on a nightly basis.

Sitting at 3-4, I’m still thinking Toledo fares just fine in the West division that I’m no longer convinced will be run by Ball State.

Looking forward to next week

  • Buffalo will square off against one of the top offenses in the nation in Creighton on Tuesday. Not sure I’m too thrilled with the Bulls’ chances after early lapses on the defensive end against the likes of Xavier and Alaska-Anchorage (79, really though?).
  • Ohio plays Marshall, the latter of which looked good down the stretch for much of last year and is 4-1 but is coming off a bad 41-point loss to Ohio State.
  • Saturday will be a doozy as Miami takes on the media darlings of late Fort Wayne, Buffalo plays the imposing backcourt of St. Bonaventure and Akron becomes of the second MAC team of the week to play at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha against the Bluejays. Think the Zips can shoot the 3-ball like Creighton has? Doubtful in that one.