GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets look to take the first step towards securing
the fourth seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament as they host the
Northern Illinois Huskies at Savage Arena.
The Rockets defeated NIU, 69-64, on Feb. 2 in DeKalb in the opening bout of
the season series. NIU was unable to defend its home court despite outscoring
Toledo, 17-8, in bench points and also, 9-2, in second-chance points. The win
improved Toledo to 40-23 against the Huskies in history.
NIU has also gone some time without a triumph as it suffered a 69-50 setback
at home to Central Michigan on Saturday to mark its eighth straight fruitless
outing. The slump has dropped the Huskies to a 3-11 record both at home and
also in conference action. Abdel Nader paces the Huskies with 13.1 points and
5.6 rebounds per tilt, but he is converting only 33.7 percent of his shots
from the floor. The Huskies have clearly been struggling due to a lack of
senior leadership. Freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 81.9 percent of
the minutes played.
Nader did not play in the team's last outing. With the leading scorer out of
action, freshman guard Mike Davis led the team with 12 points on 4-of-10
shooting from the floor in the Huskies' loss to CMU over the weekend. Aksel
Bolin and Darrell Bowie tallied 11 points apiece. NIU went 22-of-53 (41.5
percent) from the floor against the Chippewas to break a streak of two games
being held under 50 points and also a four-game streak of shooting 39 percent
from the field or worse.
Tod Kowalczyk's Rockets had been making a late push for the West Division
crown before they were dealt back-to-back losses by Western Michigan (65-62)
and Ball State (86-72). Toledo will clinch the fourth seed in the MAC
Tournament if its wins on Tuesday and also on Saturday at Eastern Michigan in
its regular season finale. The loss to Ball State dropped Toledo to 7-4 at
home in 2012-13.
Rian Pearson is leading the Rockets and the conference in scoring with 18.2
ppg, while also placing seventh in the league with 7.0 rebounds per outing.
Julius Brown adds 13.2 ppg and 5.7 apg to the mix. In the Ball State setback,
Toledo went the final five minutes without a field goal and scored just three
points during that stretch. The Rockets were held to 38.3 percent shooting
from the floor and allowed the Cardinals to connect on 54.7 percent of their
field goal tries including 12-of-24 from 3-point range. Toledo had drained
eight 3- pointer in three consecutive games after making no more than seven in
its previous 15 outings.
The end of the season cannot come soon enough for NIU, which has endured yet
another difficult campaign. The Rockets should have no problem completing the
season sweep as their top two scorers are capable of outscoring the Huskies