The East Division’s run of dominance in the Mid-American Conference has been well-documented, with programs such as Akron, Ohio and Kent State having a firm grip on the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The last time a team from the West earned that bid was in 2004, when Western Michigan won the conference tournament.
Tod Kowalczyk’s Toledo Rockets, featuring talented players such as Rian Pearson, Julius “Juice” Brown and Loyola (MD) transfer Justin Drummond, hope to put an end to that run. And in their 95-92 win at Boston College, the Rockets showed why they’re the favorites to not only win their division but the league as well.
On a night that saw Pearson, a first-team All-MAC selection, score just nine points, Brown scored a game-high 23 points to go along with ten assists, with Drummond (20) and center Nathan Boothe (17) enjoying productive nights as well. Four Toledo players scored in double figures, and as a team the Rockets shot 57.1% from the field and committed just six turnovers.
While there were some lapses on the defensive end, Toledo more than made up for those with solid execution when they had the ball. The end result: an attention-grabbing road victory that could potentially gain value as the season wears on. Yet because the semifinalists for the 2K Sports Classic have already been determined, the Rockets won’t advance to Madison Square Garden (BC will, however).
As for Boston College, they’re now 0-3 with losses to Providence and UMass also on the resume. Rebounding is something the Eagles need to clean up, as they went from a plus-11 margin in the first half to minus-4 by the end of the game with Toledo grabbing nearly 36% of their missed shots. Olivier Hanlan led five Eagles in double figures with 18 points, and with non-conference games against UConn, Indiana or Washington, VCU and Harvard before January (they also open ACC play in December against Maryland) BC can’t afford to dig themselves too big of a hole.
Regardless of Boston College’s slow start to the season this is a good win for Toledo and the MAC as well. Players such as Boothe, Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon stepped up with Pearson kept in check, and that bodes well for the Rockets going forward.