ELAINE THOMPSON / AP Enlarge
There are no healing waters there, or any mystical shrines, but for the University of Toledo men's basketball team, a trip to Savage Hall had better be just what the doctor ordered for what ails them.
The Rockets (0-3) are starved for a win as they play their first home game of the season against Nevada (4-1) tonight at 7. A tip-in at the buzzer cost Toledo a 60-58 defeat at the hands of the WolfPack in Reno last year.
That game was part of ESPN's BracketBuster Saturday, and tonight's meeting between the two is the reciprocal part of that arrangement.
"We definitely need a win, and it's good for us to have the chance to do it in front of our home crowd," UT coach Stan Joplin said. "We've struggled on the road, and hopefully being at home will allow us to start building the momentum we need."
The Rockets, the preseason favorites in the Mid-American Conference, have lost to Vanderbilt, Wright State and East Carolina to open the season, falling behind early in all three games. Toledo needs to avoid a similar start against Nevada, a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament last spring.
The WolfPack has been led by 6-11 sophomore Nick Fazekas, who has been the top scorer in all five of its games.
Fazekas had a game-high 25 points in Nevada's 84-78 win over in-state rival Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday.
Fazekas leads the Western Athletic Conference in scoring at 22.4 points per game, and is the top free throw shooter in the league at 92.6 percent. The native of Arvada, Colo., also leads his team in rebounding at 7.8 per game.
Senior Kevinn Pinkney (6-10) will make his 55th consecutive start tonight. Pinkney had a season-high 18 points, eight rebounds, and went 8-of-8 from the free-throw line in the win over UNLV. He averages 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. Joplin's concerns about Nevada start with this dynamic duo.
"Nevada has the best frontline we have faced so far," Joplin said, "and Nick Fazekas and Kevinn Pinkney can get you a double-double in a heartbeat. We have our work cut out for us, and we can't fall behind early."
Through three games Toledo has been led offensively by sophomore forward Florentino Valencia, who has averaged 14.7 points and seven rebounds per game. The Rockets, who came back from 17 points down to tie the score late in the loss at East Carolina, got 19 points from sophomore Keonta Howell in that game, and 15 points and a career-high eight assists from senior Keith Triplett.
Joplin is hoping that playing in Savage Hall, where the Rockets went 11-1 last season, will provide the positive jolt his team appears to need. Toledo has a 32-3 (.914) record in non-conference home games in eight seasons under Joplin.
DUKE PROMO: During tonight's game against Nevada at Savage Hall, a UT student will win a trip to see the Rockets play national powerhouse Duke on Sunday in Durham, N.C.
The trip includes airfare, hotel accommodations and a ticket to the game at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. The winner will be announced in the second half and must be present to win. The first 1,300 UT students at the Nevada game will receive a free "Rocket Basketball 6th Man T-Shirt."