Eastern Michigan (18-12) at Toledo (25-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 8, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Savage Arena (7,300) -- Toledo, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: EMU 14-3, Toledo 14-0. Away Record: EMU 4-9, Toledo 9-5. Neutral Record: EMU 0-0, Toledo 2-0. Conference Record: EMU 10-7, Toledo 13-4. Series Record: Toledo leads, 48-44.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets will try to secure a share of the Mid-American Conference regular-season title, as they battle the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Savage Hall.
Western Michigan clinched the No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament on Friday with a 78-64 win at Central Michigan. The Rockets enter Saturday's bout with a 13-4 league record and can tie their West Division rival with a victory, but the Broncos own the tie-breaker. Eastern Michigan can finish fifth with a win and a loss by Ohio University, but will have no lower than a No. 6 seed.
The Eagles coasted to a 72-58 victory over Ball State on Tuesday to complete the sweep of their three-game homestand. EMU has really struggled on the road, winning only one of its last five games outside of Ypsilanti. Coach Rob Murphy is currently the owner of a 48-48 career record, and the program has not had a head coach with a winning record since 2000. Murphy has climbed back to .500 by turning his Eagles into the best defensive team in the league. In 17 MAC games, the squad is allowing only 57.6 ppg on 35 percent field goal efficiency.
Toledo recently edged Central Michigan, 73-69, at home to earn its fourth win in the last five games. The victory also pushed the Rockets to their 25th win of the season, which broke the previous program record of 24 set in 1939-40. Toledo is 11-6 in its last 17 road tilts dating back to the 2012-13 season. Coach Tod Kowalczyk's team has been able to make history this season because of its unstoppable offensive attack, which ranks 17th nationally in scoring (80.7 ppg).
Toledo will be trying to avenge the 65-44 loss it was handed by the Eagles on Feb. 15. In that contest, EMU limited the Rockets to a season-low point total, as well as a season-worst 25.9 percent shooting effort. Toledo still owns a 48-44 lead in the all-time series.
EMU used a collective effort to power past the Cardinals in its home finale. Sophomore guard Darrell Combs and freshman Raven Lee scored 12 points each to lead the way, while Mike Talley added 10 points. Seniors Glenn Bryant and Daylen Harrison netted nine points apiece. Bryant also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. The Cardinals finished the contest with just five assists against 18 turnovers. EMU tallied 20 points off of turnovers and outscored Ball State, 40-26, in the paint. Ward is pacing the team on the season with 12.2 ppg and 6.4 rpg, but Lee (10.4 ppg), Talley (10.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Bryant (9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) have all been nearly as productive.
In Toledo's win over CMU this week, junior forward J.D. Weatherspoon finished with 17 points and six rebounds to spearhead the charge. Junior guard Justin Drummond contributed 15 points and three steals for the Rockets, who also received 12 points courtesy of starting point guard Julius Brown. The Chippewas went on a 13-2 run to claim a 45-41 lead at the 15:12 mark of the second half. Toledo took back control as Drummond scored five consecutive points to give it a 69-59 advantage which is did not relinquish. Drummond and Rian Pearson rank 10th and 11th in the MAC in scoring with 14.3 and 14.2 ppg, respectively. Brown leads the team with 14.9 ppg and the conference with 6.3 apg.
Toledo will have a much better chance of cracking EMU's defense in its own arena. The Eagles have lost to inferior opponents on the road this season, and the Rockets are arguably the top team in the MAC.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 69, Eastern Michigan 64
03/08 10:30:44 ET