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Published: Wednesday, 2/9/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Rocket men still hope for first win on the road

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Coach Tod Kowalczyk says the Rockets won't deviate from the structured itinerary the coaching staff has for the team for away games. Coach Tod Kowalczyk says the Rockets won't deviate from the structured itinerary the coaching staff has for the team for away games.
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It hasn't quite reached epic proportions yet, but the streak looms larger every time the University of Toledo men's basketball team hops on a bus or airplane.

The Rockets have lost 42 consecutive road games heading into Wednesday night's matchup at Ohio, as well as 58 of their last 59 as the visitor.

UT's last road win came in overtime at Central Michigan on March 9, 2008, by a final score of 90-83. It was the Rockets' lone victory on the road that season.

Texas-Pan American holds the NCAA Division I record for the longest road losing streak, including just games at the opponents' home sites, of 64 games set Nov. 25, 1995 to Jan. 8, 2000. The Mid-American Conference doesn't keep that particular statistic in its record book, but if it did, Toledo is believed to be at the top of the list.

The Rockets are 0-11 on the road this season under first-year coach Tod Kowalczyk, who inherited a program in March that went 0-31 as the visitor in two seasons under Gene Cross.

"We'll get a road win," Kowalczyk said Tuesday. "I don't know when it's going to be, but we'll get one."

Senior forward Justin Anyijong was a freshman the last time UT won a road game. That night against the Chippewas, he played five minutes and registered two points, one rebound and a blocked shot.

"I just remember us coming together as a team," Anyijong said. "We just went out there and played. One of the seniors, Jerrah Young, was picking it up toward the end of the season. He had one heckuva game that night [21 points, 11 rebounds] and so did Jonathan Amos [26 points in 41 minutes]."

Is it hard to believe Toledo hasn't won a road game since?

"Yes, it's so hard," Anyijong said. "There was a couple of times we came so close and then we didn't pull it off. But it's just one of those things, you just have to keep continuing to play hard and keep our heads up."

Despite the mounting losses, Kowalczyk and his coaching staff haven't deviated from the game plan they devised while at Wisconsin-Green Bay that allowed the Phoenix to be competitive in road games.

In Kowalczyk's final two seasons at Green Bay, the Phoenix went a combined 16-14 on the road.

"Winning on the road in college basketball is difficult," Kowalczyk said, "but we're not going to change things that have been successful for us in the past. We still have our film sessions, our walkthroughs, our individual meetings. We make sure our guys utilize their time academically.

"There's a lot of things that we do on the road that some teams do and some teams don't, but I'm a firm believer that we're going to stick to our blueprint."

That blueprint involves a structured itinerary for the Rockets for every road game.

After being allowed to sleep in a bit on game day, the team meets for breakfast at 10 a.m., has a walkthrough from 11 a.m. to noon at the opposing team's arena, then position meetings with assistant coaches back at the hotel, followed by study hall, a film session, and a pregame meal at 3 p.m.

"There's a lot of dead time, so we try to utilize that and occupy their time," Kowalczyk said. "We want to do a good job keeping them on task and about the right things."

UT will again be a player short for tonight's road contest and possibly the remainder of the season. Freshman guard J.T. Thomas re-injured his left foot in last week's 81-58 loss at Buffalo, leaving the Rockets with just two scholarship guards and six scholarship players overall.

"It's possible but it's very doubtful [that Thomas will return this season]," Kowalczyk said.

Freshman center Delino Dear also suffered a dislocated right kneecap at Buffalo, but has been able to play through the injury.

The biggest concern for Kowalczyk has been seeing how his team bounces back from last weekend's 59-41 home loss to Akron, which he called the Rockets' worst performance of the season.

"[At Monday's] practice we had some guys feeling sorry for themselves and [Tuesday] I thought for the most part guys really competed," Kowalczyk said.

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



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