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Published: Sunday, 8/22/2010

Kowalczyk era to tip off at UT

BLADE STAFF

The University of Toledo men's basketball team's schedule has been finalized and will include 16 home games, including 12 weekend dates.

"We want to have as many home games as possible each season and having 16 home dates this season is great," first-year coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "Savage Arena is a tremendous facility, and our goal will be to put a team on the floor that our fans can be proud of."

After a pair of exhibition games at Savage Arena, Toledo will open its season at Big Ten power Illinois (21-15 in 2009-10) Nov. 10 as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer event. The Rockets then will visit defending Atlantic 10 co-champion Temple (29-6) Nov. 14.

"We are certainly going to be challenged early on with our schedule," Kowalczyk said. "Facing two very good teams - Illinois and Temple - on the road that are likely going to be ranked in the preseason polls will be good preparation for us as our season progresses."

UT will then commence the "Kowalczyk Era" in Savage Arena when it hosts a Coaches vs. Cancer sub-regional the weekend of Nov. 19-21. The Rockets will entertain 2010 NIT semifinalist Rhode Island (26-10), 2010 CBI Invitational participant College of Charleston (22-12), and Illinois-Chicago (8-22) as part of the three-day, six-game event.

"Our entire coaching staff is looking forward with great excitement to taking the floor for the first time in Savage Arena," Kowalczyk said. "This tournament features some quality programs, and I think it will be a good opportunity for our fans to see some different styles of basketball."

The Rockets will host Cincinnati (19-16) Dec. 4 and conclude their preconference schedule at UNC-Wilmington (9-22) Dec. 30 and Southeastern Conference member Alabama (17-15) Jan. 3.

Toledo opens conference play at home against Eastern Michigan Jan. 8 and begins its MAC East Division cross-over contests at home Jan. 25 vs. arch-rival Bowling Green. Toledo's final regular-season contest will be at Eastern Michigan on Mar. 4 or 5.

The 2010-11 Toledo women's basketball schedule also was released Saturday, highlighted by a home game against Big Ten member Indiana Dec. 12. They will play at Northwestern Dec. 22.

"I love the fact that we have two Big Ten schools on the schedule, especially having the Hoosiers at home," said UT coach Tricia Cullop, whose team is riding a 13-game home winning streak. "We absolutely love the environment that our fans create in Savage Arena. I believe that we have a wonderful facility and it is truly a friendly environment for our team."

After hosting an exhibition game in early November, the Rockets' season will tip off Nov. 12 when they entertain Saint Francis (Pa.) in the opening round of the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament. The winner of the Toledo-Red Flash contest will face the winner of the Purdue-Austin Peay matchup Nov. 14 or 15 at a site to be determined. Under the tournament format, the 16 participating teams are guaranteed at least three games.

"We're thrilled to be playing in the Preseason WNIT," Cullop said. "It will be a huge privilege and great experience builder for our players to start out the season in such a prestigious tournament."

The Rockets will begin defense of their MAC West division title Jan. 5 when they host Ball State (14-17). The MAC Tournament begins at campus sites March 5 with the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game on March 9-12 at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

- Zach Silka



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