After seven games in 19 days to start the season, the University of Toledo men's basketball team had a chance to get back to the practice court this past week in preparation for Saturday night's game against Cincinnati.
Although they've yet to get a win this year, the Rockets nonetheless feel like they're improving.
"We've been kind of good in practice lately," sophomore guard Malcolm Griffin said Friday after practice. "This week was just all about getting better."
The Rockets had an off day Monday, followed by a "cleanup practice" Tuesday to correct mistakes made last Sunday in a 63-62 loss at Illinois-Chicago. Wednesday was an individual workout day, and Thursday and Friday's practices were focused on prepping for the Bearcats (6-0).
"I thought we had a good week," UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "Guys got better, and they've been getting better every week."
The last four days of practice have been especially important for freshman point guard J.T. Thomas and senior forward Anthony Wright, who have both been battling foot injuries.
Thomas, who missed much of the preseason team workouts after having surgery on his injured left foot in October, said the extra time has allowed him to work himself into a comfort zone on the floor.
"I'm getting back into the rhythm and swing of things," Thomas said. "I've been kind of out of whack, but it's coming. I'm getting there."
Thomas added that getting their first win of the season and in the Kowalczyk era Saturday night against a powerful Big East opponent like Cincinnati would be huge for the Rockets.
"We have to get this W, because it would be a big win for us," Thomas said. "As a team, we're real confident that we can get this W if everybody buys in and plays hard."
It won't be easy.
Cincinnati is off to its best start under fifth-year coach Mick Cronin, highlighted by a resounding 68-34 victory over Dayton last Saturday.
Six Bearcats are averaging seven or more points per game, with Sean Kilpatrick (12.2), Dion Dixon (11.2), and Yancy Gates (11.0) scoring in double digits.
"They're an unbelievably long, athletic, very talented team," Kowalczyk said. "It's probably the deepest and most talented team that Mick has had since he's been there."
UT is hoping to come close to selling out Savage Arena Saturday night and will be handing out free T-shirts to the first 1,000 students in the hopes of bolstering the attendance figure.
"You've got a Big East team coming in here," Kowalczyk said. "If people want to see a very good Cincinnati team and see a Toledo team that is building a solid foundation for future success, it's a great opportunity."
It's also a chance for the Rockets to show some growth to a fan base that hasn't seen them since a 64-51 loss to the College of Charleston on Nov. 21.
"We have been showing progress," Kowalczyk said. "If you take out the Charleston game, every game I think we've gotten better.
"Now it has to start showing up in how we execute in critical situations."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.
Owens men win
The Owens Community College men evened its record at 5-5 last night with a 65-62 win over Macomb C.C. in Port Huron, MI.
Owens was just 10-of-23 from the foul line, but Macomb wasn't much better, hitting only 11-of-21 attempts.
Cal Edwards led Owens with 26 points and seven rebounds. Greg Garrett had 11 points and nine rebounds, while Craig Short had 11 points and seven rebounds. Tommy Kralovic, Jr., had eight points, seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals.
Alan Hardy led Macomb with 18 points, while Eric VanBuren had 10 points and 13 rebounds.