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3 things learned: Toledo has shown off offensive skill this season

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Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk gives instructions to guard Marreon Jackson.

BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

The University of Toledo men’s basketball team has been like a yo-yo so far this season.

The Rockets started the season strong with wins against St. Joseph’s and Oakland, then went 0-3 in a tough stretch with three road games at Syracuse, Kansas, and Cornell, and later dropped back-to-back home games to Marshall and Wright State.

RELATED: Balanced MAC should provide plenty of regular season drama

Toledo got back on track with a quality road win Friday at Penn, its third consecutive win, and will carry a solid 8-5 record into Mid-American Conference play.

Here are three things we learned about Toledo during the nonconference season:

1) Toledo is highly skilled on offense: A look at the offensive numbers for the Rockets shows they are a great shooting team that moves the ball well. Toledo is tops in the MAC in 3-point shooting percentage at 39.1 percent, led by junior sharp-shooter Nate Navigato, who leads the MAC at 44.1 percent on 3s. Toledo’s effective field-goal percentage, which weighs 3s at 50 percent, is 54.4, tops in the MAC and 62nd in the country. Toledo also averages 15.2 assists per game, which is second in the MAC. Put it all together, and Toledo has an adjusted offensive efficiency of 109.1, which is 81st in the country.

2) There is room to grow for Toledo on defense: Toledo’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 107.2, which is 248th in the country. The Rockets are 10th in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 75.9 points per game. Last season, defense was the Achilles heel for Toledo in many games, and it has been in a few games this season. Toledo struggles to turn over opponents, as it sits in dead last in the MAC in steals per game at 4.3 and its defensive turnover percentage of 14.4 is almost dead last in the country (346th). The Rockets still have time to improve defensively and could be a dangerous team if the defense comes around.

3) Point guard play looks promising with freshman Marreon Jackson: Last season, Jaelan Sanford was forced to play as the primary point guard for Toledo. With the arrival of Jackson, Sanford has shifted to his more natural shooting guard position, where he can look for his shots more than when he had primary ball-handling duties. While Sanford still has had point guard duties at times this season, he has done a nice job at the off-guard position, averaging 15.9 points per game. Jackson, meanwhile, has shown great poise for a freshman. He has done a good job of getting teammates involved and taking care of the basketball. His assist-to-turnover ratio is second in the MAC at 2.4. Jackson also has been able to knock down 3s when given the opportunity. His 41.7 percent mark from 3s is seventh-best in the MAC. The future is bright for the freshman from Garfield Heights High school.

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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