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Published: Tuesday, 1/18/2011

Rockets glad to be home after road swing


Life on the road has not been a pleasurable experience for the University of Toledo men's basketball team this season — or the three prior to this one, for that matter.

The Rockets lost their 41st consecutive road game as well as the 55th of their last 56 as the visitor last Saturday at Northern Illinois, but they return home Wednesday night to face Western Michigan for the start of a three-game home stand at Savage Arena.

"Having a home opportunity is real big. We need that right now," UT freshman forward Reese Holliday said Tuesday. "We've been struggling, well, Toledo has been struggling on the road for the past few years as I'm sure everybody knows that by now, but road play hasn't exactly been our strong suit this year. Finally having a home game is a relief."

If there's anything positive to come out of the Rockets' 64-54 loss to the Huskies last weekend, it's the career-high 31-point performance by sophomore guard and Chicago native Malcolm Griffin.

Griffin's point total was the most by a Rocket since Jonathan Amos scored 32 against Ohio on February 14, 2009.

"It's always good to play against a team in your home state and maybe play a little harder," Griffin said. "I was really just trying to get us back in the game, and it just seemed like a lot of shots were falling so I kept attacking."

Although his team is still winless in Mid-American Conference play, UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said he continues to see gradual improvement from his players, especially on the defensive end, and coming home for three games is much needed.

"No question, especially when you're 0-3 and in desperate need of wins," Kowalczyk said. "But just because you're home, it doesn't cure any problems or issues. It's still about us executing and making sure we take care of Toledo."

NEW ADDITION: New Mexico sophomore Curtis Dennis has transferred to UT and will be eligible to play for the Rockets at the conclusion of the Fall 2011 semester. He will have 1 years of eligibility remaining.

Dennis, a 6-5 shooting guard and native of the Bronx, N.Y., played in 10 games for the Lobos this season, averaging 2.9 points and 0.7 assists in 9.4 minutes per game.

"We have really struggled to score, and he's a capable, proven scorer," Kowalczyk said. "He's somebody that has played in a very good league in the Mountain West and on a very good team. We desperately need to add some shooters and he's a guy that can make shots for us."

Dennis was part of a recruiting class at New Mexico in 2007 that was deemed the "Fab Five." ESPN.com ranked the class in the top 10 nationally.

Dennis was rated as the 13th-best prep school player in the country by Scout.com during the 2007-08 season while at Findlay College Prep in Las Vegas, where he helped lead his team to a 32-1 record and an appearance in the prep school national championship game. He averaged 13 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point range.

After playing sporadically as a redshirt freshman last season at New Mexico, Dennis quit the team in December after not to see as many minutes as he would have liked.

"It's a good opportunity with good coaching," Dennis said of his reasons behind transferring to Toledo. "My plan is to come in and help the team win. I'll do whatever I have to do to make the best out of the year and a half I have left."

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.

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