Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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University of Toledo men's basketball keep eyes on road

The University of Toledo men's basketball team may be getting road-weary.

The Rockets (2-3) play the sixth of seven straight away games to open the season tonight against Vanderbilt (1-3) in Nashville.

But at least coach Stan Joplin is taking them to some interesting places.

The Rockets spent five days in the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam, where they played three games and posted their only two wins thus far.

Tonight, UT will play in one of college basketball's most unique venues, Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium. And, a week from today, the Rockets will meet Kansas in one of the nation's largest and most storied arenas, Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.

Vanderbilt's 14,300-seat facility opened in 1952 as a combination gymnasium and concert hall. To call it quirky would be an understatement.

The gym's seating is triple-decked on both sidelines and double-decked behind each baseline. The court sits above some of those fans in the lower bowl of sideline seats and, as a result, team benches are located along the baselines.

The UT-Kansas game will be the Jayhawks' only appearance this season at Kemper Arena, which seats 19,500 fans and is about 45 miles east of the campus in Lawrence.

Kemper hosted the 1988 NCAA Final Four, the '98 Women's Final Four, and has been the site of six NCAA regional finals. It also staged the 1976 Republican National Convention, where Gerald Ford, the sitting president, defeated Ronald Reagan for the party's nomination.

BOARD GAMES: The Rockets, with no player taller than 6-foot-7 on their roster, have been outrebounded by an average of 4.4 caroms per game thus far. Although a couple key rebounding lapses hurt UT in a 57-52 loss at Drexel on Wednesday, Joplin remains optimistic.

"We knew rebounding would be a chore for us, but we're getting better and giving ourselves a chance," Joplin said.

Tino Valencia leads UT with 6.2 rebounds per game and his 10 caroms against Drexel marked the first double-digit rebounding total for a Toledo player since the 2003-04 season.

WERNER RETURNS: The UT women's team (2-4) is at home tonight against Cleveland State (2-5). Tip-off at Savage Hall is set for 7.

Senior post player Savannah Werner started for the first time last Wednesday in a 62-59 win at Wright State after being sidelined by a leg injury. She tied Kristy Zeller, who nailed four 3-point shots, for team scoring honors with 12 points.

ALL-MAC: From 2001-05, UT's football team posted a 45-18 record with four MAC West Division championships and two MAC titles.

But the Rockets never had more than four players capture first team All-MAC honors in any of those seasons. In 2001, when UT went 10-2 and won the league championship, only two players - running back Chester Taylor and defensive lineman David Bockmore - were named to the first team.

Privately, UT coaches and officials groused that their players weren't always getting the respect they deserved for a myriad of reasons, up to and including a jealousy of the program's success by league coaches who vote for the annual awards.

This season, the Rockets finished 5-7 (3-5 MAC). But UT's five selections to the All-MAC first team equaled the number of picks for MAC champion Central Michigan and exceeded the number of first-teamers from each of the other 10 schools in the league.

Go figure.

ALL-BRAINS: Toledo volleyball senior Kate Bean has become just the second Rocket student-athlete ever to be named first team Academic All-American twice with her inclusion on ESPN The Magazine's Academic All-America Women's Volleyball Team.

It is the second straight year Bean, an outside hitter who has a 3.98 grade point average with a major in community health, has earned first-team honors.

Bean joins ex-women's basketball player Dana Drew (1994-95) in winning first team Academic All-American honors twice.

SIGNINGS: The Toledo men's golf team has received signed letters-of-intent from Ben Boyer and Nate Wine, each of whom posted top-five finishes in state prep championships in Ohio and Indiana, respectively. The UT women's golf program went to Victoria, Australia to nab one of the three members of its newest recruiting class. The Rockets signed Michelle Hui as well as Lauren Bliwas (Upper Arlington, Ohio) and Erica Rivard (Tecumseh, Ont.). The Toledo women's swimming and diving team signed athletes from five states, including metro Toledoans Brittany Teneyck of Millbury and Nikki Schnell-McCoy of Oregon.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: or 419-724-6398.

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