ROCKET MEN GET NUMBER 3 IN A ROMP
December 21, 2010 The Toledo Rockets got a breather for the first time this season as the Midnight Blue and Gold smothered Indiana University Northwest, 80-44 at Savage Arena. The Redhawks, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school located in Gary IN, entered the contest with a 1-12 record and it didn't take Toledo long to establish dominance over a team that lacked size, both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Jay Shunnar earned his third consecutive start for Toledo and the junior guard didn't disappoint his coach, getting the Rockets first six points by dropped a pair of baseline triples on the visitors in the opening minute of play.
Sophomore Adam White kept the Redhawks in the game for the first six minutes with three triples but Toledo was shooting lights out in this one and began to get separation when Delino Dear scored on a layup to make the score 20-13 at the 12:06 mark.
Enter Justin Anyijong, the tall senior who has been used sparingly by Tod Kowalczyk and whose shooting percentage was about equal to the temperature outside of the arena at game time. Not to worry; Justin stepped right up to drain consecutive three-pointers and begin the makings of a rout.
Then, not to be outdone by the upperclassmen, freshman J.T. Thomas came off the bench and proceeded to pop a pair of triples for a 34-19 Toledo lead with 6:35 left to play in the half. UT added 10 more points to the total before half time and went into intermission with a 44-29 lead.
Dear, who was having his way with the UIN post players, finished the half with 12 points. As a team the Rockets made 16-of-29 offerings for 55.2%, a figure that included 7-of-15 from downtown.
An 18-2 run at the beginning of the second half gave the Rockets a 62-31 lead and the only real question the fans were pondering was what the final margin of victory would be.
The Toledo bench got plenty of playing time in the final period and outscored the Redhawk reserves, 31-5. The only Rocket regular who played sparingly in the second half was senior Anthony Wright who played just one minute after intermission.
White had 18 points to lead Indiana Northwest in scoring. The sophomore guard was 6-15 from out beyond the line..
Dear, the lanky freshman who seems to improve with each game posted a double-double to lead Toledo with season highs in points (19) and rebounds (10).
We just took this game as an opportunity to get better and work on those things that we need to get better at and focus on. We wanted to come out strong and put the game away early, said Dear.
Anyijong came off the bench to score 14 points on 5-5 shooting, 4-4 from three-point range, and Shunnar added 10 points. Other Rockets who contributed to the win were Sophomore Malcom Griffin who had nine points and a career-high nine assists; freshman Reese Holliday with 10 rebounds and six assists; and Thomas who clocked out with eight points and three assists.
I said all week to the guys that this game had nothing to do with who we were playing, said Rocket mentor Kowalczyk It had every thing to do with the Toledo Rockets getting better. I didn't want us to take a step back tonight and I thought we were okay in the first half and really really good in the second half. Hopefully we're beginning to understand who we are and what we are,
Statistically Toledo had a huge 50-32 lead in rebounding. The Rockets also had a season-high 24 assists to just 11 turnovers.
If there was a down side to the win it would be Toledo's shooting from the free throw line; The Rockets were just 12-25 from the charity stripe.
The Rockets have now registered three consecutive wins for the first time since late in the 2007-08 season when Stan Joplin was still holding the reins. Back then UT successfully completed a trifecta against Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, and Bowling Green.
One would have to go back to the championship year of 2006-07 to find a Rocket team that was victorious in four or more consecutive games.
Team members now get a short Christmas break before preparing for a two-game road trip against UNC-Wilmington and Alabama.