FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 0-0, Minnesota 1-0. Away Record: Toledo 0-1, Minnesota 0-0. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to improve upon an impressive effort in their season opener when they play host to the Toledo Rockets this evening.
Toledo's season tipped off in disappointing fashion on Friday night, losing 62-50 to Loyola-Chicago, a team that won just seven games last season. The Rockets are expected to be competitive in the Mid-American Conference after winning 19 games a year ago.
Minnesota came out of the gates strong on Friday by posting a 72-36 win over American University. The Golden Gophers improved to 47-4 in their last 51 home openers, which includes wins in 24 straight such contests.
These two teams each have one win against the other in the all-time series.
Toledo could not get anything going offensively against Loyola, at it connected on just 20-of-57 field goal attempts (.351), and that percentage was even worse from beyond the arc (4-of-17). In addition to shooting bricks all night, the Rockets were also out-manned on the boards by a 43-30 margin. The only player to score in double figures on the night was Julius Brown with 15 points, but he did so on just 6-of-16 shooting from the field. The 5-10 guard is the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year after putting up 11.9 ppg and 4.9 apg during the 2011-12 campaign, but he was held without an assist in the opener. Rian Pearson was named Second Team All-Conference last season (16.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and is expected to be in the running for MAC Player of the Year, but his season got off to a slow start as he tallied just eight point, although he did grab a team-high eight rebounds. Dominique Buckley scored nine points, just below last year's average (9.7 ppg), but he committed four turnovers.
Minnesota was able to overcome a dismal performance from three-point range (4- of-22) to shoot a respectable 43.5 percent from the field against American. Its effort at the defensive end was nothing short of spectacular, as it forced the Eagles into more than twice as many turnovers (22) as field goals made (nine). Leading the way for the Gophers was Austin Hollins, who scored 15 of his career-high 20 points in the first half. The big performance was a nice sign from a player who netted 9,2 ppg a season ago. Last year's leading scorer Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg) also got off to a strong start with 16 points on 7- of-10 from the field while grabbing five rebounds. Andre Hollins did not have a successful night shooting the ball (1-of-8, three points), but he did a good job finding the open teammate with seven assists. Trevor Mbakwe (14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg in 2011-12) played just seven games last season before tearing his ACL. He was back in action on Friday, recording four points in 14 minutes off the bench.
With a strong returning core of players, Toledo expects to perform much better this season than it showed in the opener, and Pearson will undoubtedly be looking for a bounce-back effort. However, Minnesota appears poised for a strong run in the Big Ten this year, and it has been especially good in the Tubby Smith era in its own building (67-23).