Toledo forward J.D. Weatherspoon, left, pulls down a defensive rebound against Central Michigan next to Justin Drummond. Weatherspoon had 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Julius Brown has to stand up to his teammate, J.D. Weatherspoon, when the high-flying Weatherspoon challenges his point guard for not floating a lob pass his way.
“I try to tell him it’s high-risk,” Brown said. “If I see it’s open I’m gonna throw it, but a lot of times it’s not open which I have to tell him.”
The University of Toledo juniors found a couple of sensible times to collaborate Saturday, opening an 86-71 home win over Central Michigan with a rollicking alley-oop and finishing the evening in similar crowd-pleasing fashion.
Call it a couple of flushes to flush away a couple of losses.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game.
The Rockets are winning again, reverting to the happy times that preceded their dropping two straight games after a 12-0 start. The victory evens their Mid-American Conference record at 1-1 heading into a week with matchups against East division contenders Buffalo and Akron.
Weatherspoon and Brown each registered a double-double and were among six Rockets to score in double figures, marking the second time Toledo has pulled that feat this season. Weatherspoon had 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Brown doled out 12 assists — tied for his personal best — to go with 15 points. He turned the ball over just twice, propping up his MAC-best and nationally fifth-ranked assist to turnover ratio.
On a night devoid of drama — zero second-half lead changes — the Rockets’ must-see point guard-power forward alliance struck with two highlights, bringing to full throat a crowd of 6,189 — the largest of the season.
On his team’s first possession, Brown stopped a foot behind the top of the 3-point line and arced a pass to Weatherspoon after the 6-foot-6 human trampoline exploded along the baseline left of the basket.
“That point guard and four [power forward] eye contact,” Weatherspoon said. “I saw him, he saw me. I told him throw it up and get it.”
The timing between them has been imprecise at points this season, leading to some sky scraping dunks but also uncatchable passes.
“But the timing was perfect today,” said Brown, who reenacted the earlier hook up with 20 seconds to go when he found Weatherspoon crashing the baseline, this time from in the lane.
Coach Tod Kowalczyk enjoyed what he saw — and he’d like to see it more often.
“We need to throw more of them to Spoon,” he said. “He goes and gets them.”
Justin Drummond had six assists for UT, which encountered little distress over CMU’s press to help out on 23 of 28 buckets. The Rockets turned the ball over 11 times.
Drummond finished with 11 points after going scoreless in the first half. Foul trouble robbed Nathan Boothe (13 points, three assists, two steals) of a bigger night, as the big man played only eight minutes in the second half.
Toledo got a big night from its small forward spot. Rian Pearson had 14 points, and Jordan Lauf knocked down two 3-pointers for a 12-point effort, his first double-digit performance in his freshman season.
After playing perhaps their worst game of the season three days earlier at Western Michigan, the Rockets regained normalcy on offense, shooting 57 percent.
“We have a lot of weapons on this team,” Brown said. “I like to use them as much as I can.”
Point guard Chris Fowler led CMU (7-7, 0-2) with 21 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. His ability to get into the paint had something to do with four Rockets incurring four fouls and another, Lauf, fouling out.
Weatherspoon logged a season-high 35 minutes, reducing back up post Matt Smith to a spectator for all but five minutes.
BANNER HUNG: Although the Mid-American Conference won’t officially recognize them as last year’s division champions because of penalties attached to the program’s postseason ban, Toledo dropped a banner before the game claiming the honor. The banner, which hangs from the north end of Savage Arena, reads West Division co-champions 2012-13.