Toledo (4-0) at Detroit (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 5:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Calihan Hall (8,295) -- Detroit, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 2-0, Detroit 2-0. Away Record: Toledo 2-0, Detroit 1-2. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Detroit 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, Detroit 0-0. Series Record: Toledo leads, 27-24.
GAME NOTES: The 2K Sports Classic continues at Calihan Hall on Saturday afternoon, as the Toledo Rockets take on the host Detroit Titans.
Toledo has gotten off to a flying start to the season with wins in each of its first four games. The Rockets opened up the Classic on Friday night against Stony Brook, and they held off the pesky Seawolves on their way to a 103-99 triumph. They led by as many as 11 points late in the second half, and while Stony Brook was able to get within one possession on several occasions, the Rockets sealed the deal at the foul line late, drilling all six of their attempts in the final 19 seconds to finish off a 34-of-42 night (.810) at the stripe. Their field goal percentage was also outstanding (.525), and they were paced by the efforts of Julius Brown, who tallied 23 points and eight assists. Rian Pearson and Nathan Boothe poured in 15 points apiece, while J.D. Weatherspoon (12 points) and Justin Drummond (10 points) put all five starters in double figures.
While Detroit's start to the season hasn't nearly been as impressive as Toledo's, it has been playing its best basketball of late with back-to-back wins to pull above. 500 for the first time. The Titans' most dominating effort came on Friday night against Florida Atlantic in a 77-44 blowout, as they outshot the Owls from the field, 48.1 percent to 31.8 percent, made 90 percent of their free-throw tries and won the turnover battle by a 23-12 count. With the game out of hand in the second half, there was plenty of opportunities for bench players to contribute, and Matthew Grant (14 points), Patrick Onwenu (11 points) and Anton Wilson (11 points) all responded. Juwan Howard, Jr. was the most productive starter with 14 points, while Uqochukwu Njoku tallied six points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Detroit won last season's matchup with Toledo, 78-73, at home on Dec. 5, 2012, but the Rockets still lead the all-time series, 27-24.
The Rockets have been red-hot from the field to start the season, as they are shooting nearly 55 percent from the field for 94.8 points per game, which is eighth-most in the nation. They have also been active at the foul line (110- of-153) and boast sizable rebounding (+10.3) and turnover (+4.0) margins. Friday's performance was hardly a rarity for Toledo, as all five starters score in double figures on a nightly basis, led by Brown's 19.3 points per game. Pearson (15.3 ppg) is a strong perimeter defender with 10 steals, while Drummond (15.0 ppg), Boothe (12.0 ppg) and Weatherspoon (11.0 ppg) all grab at least 4.8 rebounds per contest.
While Detroit's scoring output on the young season pales in comparison to Toledo's (73.4 ppg), it too is able to take advantage of a strong showing in the takeaway battle with a +3.2 turnover margin. Howard, Jr. (16.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is the catalyst in the early going even though he shoots less than 40 percent from the field, a distinction that's also associated with Carlton Brundidge (10.0 ppg) as the team's second-leading scorer. Njoku is normally not a big scoring threat (4.4 ppg), but he is a difference-maker in the paint with 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
Detroit will have an advantage playing this game in front of its home fans, but Toledo has been so effective in lighting up the scoreboard that it should be impervious to Detroit's defensive efforts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 84, Detroit 79
11/23 10:35:14 ET