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After showing some promise in its first two games at home, the University of Toledo men's basketball team hopes it is ready for the next three weeks.
The Rockets (1-1) have six consecutive games on the road in six different states. Tonight's game against Old Dominion kicks it off.
For a team with just one senior, staying on the road so long is a daunting challenge, one that coach Stan Joplin felt the need to apologize for.
"I really put the players in a terrible position," Joplin said. "It's really not fair that they're in this position. We're suffering because of the success the program has had. Nobody wants to play us, so we have to go on the road.
"I'm hoping now that we can balance our schedule out and can have more home games [in the future], and we won't have to do this anymore. When you go on the road for this long [of a] period of time, it's going be very, very tough."
The Monarchs (1-0) will be the third straight team UT plays that made the postseason last year. ODU went to the NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round.
The game is a return for the BracketBusters contest from last year, when the Monarchs beat the Rockets 73-70 at Savage Hall.
Through two games, UT has shown that it can still play pressure defense with success and use it to find ways to score. With so little experience returning from last year, though, confidence could be an issue.
A lack of confidence might have been the reason for the slow start against Vanderbilt on Tuesday that caused the Rockets to fall behind 18-0. But after watching the film senior forward Jerrah Young said UT "came out too relaxed.
"We weren't mentally focused for the game," Young said. "We've got to play harder from the beginning. We learned the hard way."
ODU returns one starter from last year, senior Brian Henderson, although he did not play in the season opener Sunday after experiencing a fainting spell last week. The Monarchs defeated South Carolina State 64-54, led by Abdi Lidonde's 20 points. ODU was 15-2 at home last year.
"They almost call a set play every time down the floor," Joplin said. "They have so many set plays we can't cover all of them, so we're going to have to stick to our principles."
TWO DOWN, TWO TO GO: The Rockets have received signed letters of intent for next season from two players, Larry Bastfield from Towson, Md., and Clay's Zac Taylor. They expect to receive two more during the early signing period from James Davis (Columbus) and Dante Harvey (Lithonia, Ga.).
Davis and Harvey are both at prep schools and one of their parents also has to sign the letter so the process takes longer.
MEMORIES: Joplin made his head coaching debut in a game at Old Dominion on Nov. 25, 1996. The Rockets lost 65-57. That game was played in the ODU Fieldhouse. In 2002, the Monarchs moved to a new building, the Ted Constant Convocation Center.
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