Toledo defeats UM-Dearborn 92-73 in final exhibition gameWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Playing against a University of Michigan-Dearborn squad that went 1-29 in 2009-10, Toledo had little trouble scoring the basketball Nov. 2 as it rolled 92-73 in its’ final exhibition game before the regular season tips off next week. While the Rockets did a decent job of putting points on the board, they had trouble taking care of the basketball and playing good transition defense. Toledo committed 15 turnovers that resulted in 17 Wolves’ points, and also allowed 10 fast break points from UM-Dearborn.
“We are very limited at a lot of positions, and some of these guys need to know what their limitations are,” Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “We’ve got to play the game a little bit slower. We’ve got to take great shots and can’t turn it over, and our bread and butter better be our defense, and right now it’s not and our transition defense is horrendous.”
The limitations Kowalczyk referred to were the injuries the team is facing right now at multiple positions, as well as the fact that he will only have seven scholarship players on the roster this season. Sophomore guard Rian Pearson (UW-Green Bay), sophomore forward Matt Smith (UW-Green Bay) and junior guard Dominique Buckley (Iowa State) will not be eligible to play for the Rockets until the 2011-12 season after transferring into the Toledo program. Freshman point guard J.T. Thomas is out until at least the home opener against Illinois-Chicago Nov. 19 as he recovers from foot surgery, while senior forward and Michigan transfer Anthony Wright is likely out until at least the Temple game Nov. 14 with an arch injury in his foot.
Kowalczyk said that his team is hard to judge right now because of the injuries and the players who will not be eligible until next season, but that he needs to do what’s best for this year’s team, which is to manage the current situation for the long haul.
“It’s a long season,” Kowalczyk said. “You play a lot of games, and I need to manage this situation for the long haul and not worry about one game or a game. I think for Anthony, the goal is to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy for UIC, and J.T. may be able to play at that point in time, too.”
A bright spot in Tuesday’s exhibition game was that the Rockets had six players finish in double figures, led by freshman guard Zack Leahy’s 16 points. Sophomore guard Malcolm Griffin was Toledo’s second-leading scorer with 14 points, while senior forward Justin Anyijong and freshman guard Reese Holliday had 13 points apiece. Redshirt freshman forward Hayden Humes and freshman center Delino Dear finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“He’s the most important guy to this team right now,” Kowalczyk said of Leahy. “Now, obviously when J.T. and Anthony come back and when some other guys get better, that may not be the case. But right now, he’s an important piece to our puzzle.”
The Rockets opened up the game with an early 7-2 lead within the first three minutes, led by Leahy’s five points. With 15:23 remaining in the first half, Griffin found Holliday down the right side of the court with an outlet pass, and Holliday took it to the hoop and got the layup and the foul to make it 13-8 Toledo. By the 12:18 mark, the Rockets held a 19-12 advantage as they connected on eight of their 12 field goal attempts.
With 7:47 left to go in the half, Toledo was up by a score of 24-18 and probably could have led by more if it hadn’t committed seven turnovers. However, Rockets’ freshman walk-on forward Jess Chadwell sparked the team with seven straight points to extend Toledo’s lead to 15 with the score 38-23 by the 3:34 mark. The Rockets closed out the half with a 48-29 lead on the strength of 63 percent shooting from the field. Both teams had 10 turnovers in the first half, with the Wolves scoring 12 points off Toledo’s miscues. However, the Rockets outscored UM-Dearborn 28-4 in the paint, and it proved to be the difference in the opening period.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do defensively,” Griffin said. “I think our offense is a little better, but if we’re going to go against Illinois, we’ve got to bring it.”
In the second half, Toledo maintained its’ double-digit lead in the opening eight-plus minutes, leading 67-50 with 11:53 left to play in the game as it continued to shoot over 60 percent from the field. The Wolves responded with a 7-2 run to make it 69-57 at the 9:57 mark. However, the Rockets outscored UM-Dearborn 23-16 the rest of the way for the 92-73 final.
“Winning two exhibition games, these guys needed that,” Kowalczyk said. “They need to feel what it’s like to win.”
Tip-off for Toledo’s season opener Nov. 10 at No. 13 Illinois for the first contest of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer is set for 7 p.m. CT.