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Falcons look to continue dominance, Toledo hopes to stop 5-game losing streak in rivalry

  • BG-UT-Battle-of-I-75

  • BGSU-Toledo-I-75-rivalry

    BG's Chauncey Orr has scored in double-digits in the last two games for the Falcons.

    BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

  • I-75-Rivalry-UT-bigs

    Toledo's Matt Smith (43), Richard Wonnell (55), and Josh Lemons (11) will look to put pressure on Bowling Green shooters today. The Rockets have lost four games in a row to their rivals.

    BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

BGSU-Toledo-I-75-rivalry

BG's Chauncey Orr has scored in double-digits in the last two games for the Falcons.

BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

Tod Kowalczyk bristles in reaction to the streak.

I-75-Rivalry-UT-bigs

Toledo's Matt Smith (43), Richard Wonnell (55), and Josh Lemons (11) will look to put pressure on Bowling Green shooters today. The Rockets have lost four games in a row to their rivals.

BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

The University of Toledo men’s basketball team has lost four in a row in the I-75 rivalry, and five consecutive regular season match ups to Bowling Green. Those numbers, Kowalczyk contends, are hardly worth mentioning.

"We lost at their place last year and that’s the only streak I’m looking at," he said. "What happened before last year is irrelevant and I couldn’t care less."

The third-year Rockets coach is 0-2 against BG, though the 2010-11 team Kowalczyk inherited was so inept that the defeat that year could come with an asterisk.

At any rate, Toledo could really use a win over its adversary to the south when the teams renew the series today at Savage Arena. Tip-off between teams trying to climb to .500 in the Mid-American Conference is set for 7 p.m.

The last time Toledo prevailed over Bowling Green came in a brutal 52-48 slugfest at the MAC tournament in 2008. Days later Stan Joplin was dismissed as Rockets coach, departing with a 14-11 mark in 12 years against the Falcons. Gene Cross, who never beat the Falcons in his two seasons, left Kowalczyk with a putrid 2010-11 squad.

Last year’s affair was at last competitive, with BG taking advantage of 21 offensive rebounds and 18 turnovers by the Rockets to score a 66-63 decision at the Stroh Center.

Twice in the postseason — in the MAC tournament and possibly in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament — a Falcons loss spoiled visions of a rematch with Toledo.

"When you're 20 minutes away, and a lot of the guys are being recruited by both schools, it's a big game," BG’s Chauncey Orr said. "We treat it like any other game, even thought it's a rivalry. We can't treat it too big; we just have to go out and try to get the win."

Orr’s play could tip the scales in either direction. The sophomore son of the head coach has emerged of late as the third scoring option BG has sought to complement Jordon Crawford (16.3 points) and A’uston Calhoun (15.8). Orr nailed four 3-pointers Wednesday in a 15-point pasting of Kent State, scoring 18 points to notch a double-digit total for the second game in a row. Along the way he bumped his scoring average from 6.1 to 7.2 points.

"I think Chauncey Orr’s really coming into his own," Kowalczyk said. "He can really shoot the ball. He understands the game exceptionally well. He’s really taking the next step."

BG’s triumph against Kent — which registers perhaps as its finest result of the year — bumped the Falcons (7-11, 2-3) into a four-way tie for third place in the MAC East. Toledo, meanwhile, has dropped three in a row over its toughest three-game league stretch of the season.

The Rockets (6-10, 2-3) hope to end two skids today.

"The BG game is the biggest game of the year," center Richard Wonnell said. "The fact we haven’t won in how long is the same frustration as when Michigan didn’t beat Ohio State [in football] for seven years straight. It’s the same idea. We have to win for the program and the community. It’s huge."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.

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