FACTS & STATS: Site: McCleod Center (6,650) -- Cedar Falls, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 0-0, Northern Iowa 0-0. Away Record: Toledo 0-2, Northern Iowa 0-0. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Northern Iowa 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, Northern Iowa 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAMES NOTES: Toledo continues its five-game road trip to open the season when the Rockets travel to the McCleod Center to take on the Northern Iowa Panthers.
The first two stops on its season opening journey have not gone well for Toledo. The Rockets lost to Loyola-Illinois 62-50 in the season opener, then in were routed by Minnesota, 82-56. Toledo is hoping it is just a slow start and not a return to the types of efforts that had the squad post 4-28 records in consecutive seasons, before last year's 19-17 effort. The next stop on the five-game road slate is in Fort Myers, Florida to face Samford as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
A record offensive performance powered Northern Iowa in its win in the season opener. The Panthers rolled up 103 points, which was a record at the McCleod Center in a 53-point victory over Wartburg, a school out of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The easy opener belies the fact that Northern Iowa has been one of the best mid-major programs in the last few seasons with at least 20 wins in four straight years. Northern Iowa remains at home to face North Dakota this Saturday.
This will mark the first meeting between these two programs.
Toledo was unable to recover from a slow start offensively against Minnesota in its second loss of the season. The Rockets connected on only 8-of-36 shot attempts in the first half and despite heating up to 44.0 percent in the second half were unable to overcome a massive 48-22 disadvantage at the half.
One good sign in the game was the Rian Pearson was able to get back to scoring at a high level. Although he took a bulk of the team's shots (17) he was able to finished with 18 points in 31 minutes of play. Pearson really powered the Toledo offense last season, scoring a team-high 16.4 points per game. Pearson was also a productive rebounder last season (8.3 ppg) but has only 10 through the first two games. Julius Brown has shown his ability to both score and distribute in the first two games. He had a team-high 15 points in the opener but then scored just nine points, while handing out seven assists against Minnesota. Nathan Boothe (5.5 rpg) and Reese Holliday (5.0 rpg) are the top rebounder for the Rockets through the first two games.
Northern Iowa was lights out on offense in its season opener, as it shot at a blistering 65.6 percent clip overall. That included an astounding 22-for-28 effort in the second half, when the Panthers racked up 56 points.
Five different players scored in double figures, led by Deon Mitchell. The sophomore guard started the game but played in only 14 minutes while still managing to score 18 points and hand out six assists. Perhaps Mitchell can step up to fill the role of go-to scorer with last year's leading scorer, Anthony James (12.5 ppg) gone this season. Forward Jake Koch cleaned up on the board with 13 rebounds. Seth Tuttle, a sophomore forward who really shined last season (9.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg), is tagged as the next big thing for the Panthers. However, he didn't need to do all that much in the season opener, scoring seven points on 3-for-3 shooting in just 13 minutes of play. Reserves Marvin Singleton (14 points), Matt Morrison (14) and Nate Buss (13) all saw major minutes but are unlikely to see as much court time going forward.
Opening up the season with so many road games might prove to be a benefit later on in the season for Toledo. However, for now it just means the Rockets will continue to struggle.