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Game Preview: Gophers vs. Toledo 11/12/12

 

Toledo Rockets at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Monday, November 12, 2012 | 7pm CT | TV/Online: Gopher All Access (Online)

Toledo scored the final 10 points Friday night at Loyola Chicago, but the run only made the scoreboard look a little bit better in a 62-50 loss.

This season the Rockets are playing for pride and with only one senior, the future. Due to APR scores from academic years prior to current head coach Tod Kowalczyk’s arrival, the team is banned from NCAA postseason play.  Nonetheless, they are picked to win the MAC’s west division this year (it’s fair to note that half of the division’s teams are directional schools in Michigan).

Kowlacyzk, a Minnesota-Duluth alumnus (1989), is in his third year at Toledo after eight years as head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Previous stops include an assistant coaching stint at Marquette while Dwyane Wade was at the school.

Despite being a small team that will play three guards most of the night, Toledo won’t be an especially heavy 3-point shooting team this year. However, just about everyone on the floor is willing to take advantage of an open look if it’s there.

Minnesota will look to come out and frustrate the Rockets early and often as they did to American Friday night. On paper, Toledo is not as good as American and this looks like the Gophers’ second easiest game on the schedule (Lafayette on December 22 takes the honors).

The Gophers were excellent in their season opening 72-36 victory over American. It’s difficult to critique such a dominating performance, but two areas Minnesota will want to improve on against Toledo are limiting the Rockets’ free throw attempts and second chances.

Below you’ll find a PLAYERS TO WATCH section highlighting specific Rockets and an OTHER NOTES section that touches on miscellaneous items of interest. For additional information on Gopher and Big Ten basketball, go to LateNightHoops.com.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Running the point is sophomore #20 Julius Brown (11.9 ppg, 4.9 apg) from the fine Chicagoland high school Hillcrest. “Juice” Brown was the MAC’s freshman of the year and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.6 to 1, but he’s undersized and will likely face a lot of pressure from the Gophers.

#5 Rian Pearson (16.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg)  a 6’4” junior guard, followed Kowalczyk from UWGB and can rebound and score inside despite his size. Pearson isn’t much of a 3-point threat (8/31 for 25.8% in 2011-12), but he’ll try his best to take on Minnesota’s defenders in the paint. A test for the Gophers will be keeping him (and Brown) off the line.

Another guard expected to start is former Iowa State Cyclone (yes, they also have transfers out of that program) #1 Dominique Buckley (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), a solid 6’2” senior. He’s a career 40.4% 3-point shooter and is the guy the Gophers should be most concerned about from deep.

Others to mention:

  • Freshman center #53 Nathan Boothe is a big kid at 6’9”, 250 pounds. Can hit an outside shot. As the only Rocket with much size, the hope for Toledo is that he’ll stay out of early foul trouble. We don’t think that will be easy for him to do, however.
  • #32 Reese Holliday (7.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) will likely come off the bench, but get 20+ minutes. Just 6’4”, had to play inside a lot last year, but should play more on the wing with Boothe’s arrival. In addition to an impressive defensive rebounding percentage , Holliday shot well in 2011-12.
  • Sliding over to power forward from center is #43 Matt Smith (8.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg), another UWGB transfer. Smith shot the ball well last year, but at 6’7” and only 225 pounds, he’ll struggle defending inside.

OTHER NOTES

  • Gophers forward Oto Osenieks was recruited by coach Kowalczyk at both UWGB and Toledo.
  • American’s 26.3% effective field goal percentage Friday night was the lowest Minnesota has held an opponent in any game this century (beginning with the 2000-01 season), per Late Night Hoops research.
  • The announced attendance of 10,172 for Minnesota’s home opener was 1,804 or 15% less than last year’s. Also, the attendance for Friday’s opener was the smallest Williams Arena crowd for any regular season game in the Tubby Smith era.
  • Tremendous ticket deals are available at www.GopherSports.com including $10 tickets and $15 packages that include a ticket and $5 concession voucher.
  • J.D. Weatherspoon transferred to Toledo from Ohio State and expects to be eligible to play for two years beginning in 2013-14. Weatherspoon starred at Northland (OH) high school with fellow 2010 graduate Jared Sullinger and their younger point guard Trey Burke.
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