Toledo (6-7) at Western Michigan (8-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 16, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Arena (5,421) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: Toledo 3-1. WMU 4-1. Away Record: Toledo 3-6, WMU 2-6. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, WMU 2-0. Conference Record: Toledo 2-0, WMU 0-2. Series Record: Toledo leads, 78-55.
GAMES NOTES: The suddenly hot Toledo Rockets will square off with a reeling Western Michigan squad in a Mid-American Conference bout at University Arena on Wednesday night.
Led by an impressive performance from Julius Brown, Toledo was able to edge out Central Michigan, 76-72, in overtime on Saturday to earn its fourth win in the last five games and second straight overall. Even after the victory the Rockets are still below .500 (6-7) on the season but have improved to 2-0 against league foes, including their 70-58 victory against Kent State. Toledo hasn't traveled well this season (3-6) although the win against the Golden Flashes came on the road. Up next for the Rockets is a trip to face Ohio.
It is the same Bobcats that handed Western Michigan its third straight loss on Saturday with a narrow 61-59 victory. The loss came on the heels of a 65-43 rout to Akron in the conference opener for the Broncos who are now 8-7 overall and winless in two tries against MAC foes. When the Broncos have played at home they have found success with four wins in five tries at University Arena. Western Michigan plays a road contest against Northern Illinois next.
In last season's series each of these teams earned a victory with a home triumph. Toledo still leads the all-time series though, with a 78-55 edge.
Brown scored a game-high 21 points, handed out nine assists and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to lead Toledo past Central Michigan. Brown also came up big down the stretch, scoring eight of his points in overtime, while also handing out an assist. The Rockets forced twice as many turnovers (14) as they committed (seven) in the win.
Although Brown (13.6 ppg, 5.0 apg) has enjoyed a strong season it has been Rian Pearson (19.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) that has anchored the Rockets. The 6-foot-4 guard is the leading scorer in the MAC (19.8 ppg), while ranking third in steals (2.0 pg). Pearson is also the lead rebounder on the Rockets and has scored in double figures in every game except the season opener, with efforts of at least 20 points in four of the last five games. Pearson's efforts should not completely overshadow Brown's though as the 5-foot-10 guard is among the top players in the league in assists and scoring.
Western Michigan trailed by as many 12 points against Ohio but managed to use a 7-2 spurt in the final minutes to pull within a point, 60-59 with seven seconds remaining. After the Bobcats went 1-of-2 at the free-throw line on the next possession the Broncos got two shots off but were unable to make good on either.
The Broncos don't have top scorers like Toledo and thus are just seventh in the MAC in points per game (64.9). Western Michigan has managed to control the boards, as the leading squad in rebounding (38.7 pg) in the league. The team is powered by the frontcourt trio of Nate Hutcheson (11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Shayne Whittington (11.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Darius Paul (11.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg). Brandon Pokley (9.3 ppg) is the top option from the perimeter.
These two teams are quite different in their approaches, with the Rockets reliant on perimeter play, while the Broncos grind it out on the inside. Brown and Pearson will certainly keep Toledo going, which could be trouble for often offensively-challenged Broncos.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 69, Western Michigan 66
01/16 10:33:45 ET