The Toledo Rocket men’s basketball team had a complete weekend when it started its 2018-2019 campaign with two wins over Oakland and Wilberforce.
The Rockets started their season in Rochester, Michigan, taking on Oakland.
The game served as an instant classic, a back-and-forth affair that came down to the last possession.
It was a slow start for the Rockets, who trailed early in the first half and did not find a rhythm. The Golden Grizzlies of Oakland took advantage of this and played beautifully up 31-21 late in the first half. That is, until fourth-year guard Jaelan Sanford took over for the Rockets. Sanford torched the Golden Grizzlies for a quick 10 points to end the first half and close the gap for the Rockets.
As the second half began, Sanford continued his high-volume scoring. The second half was a slug fest, with both teams trading blows, waiting patiently for the final knockout.
With Sanford leading the way, other Rockets found success as well. Third-year forward Willie Jackson proved integral for the Rockets with his 15-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Jackson and Sanford paved the way for an 86-80 Rocket lead with just 24 seconds left in the game. It appeared to be a guaranteed Rocket win until two free throws and a three for the Golden Grizzlies made the score 86-85 with 11 seconds left.
Spencer Littleson went to the line for the Rockets and sank 1 of 2, giving Oakland the ball back only down 2. After a drive to the basket, Golden Grizzlies guard Brailen Neely was fouled, and sent to the line.
Thankfully for the Rockets, Neely sank 1 of 2, effectively sinking Oakland and giving the visiting Rockets the win, 87-86. Sanford tallied 30 points, the second largest total of his career.
“I thought we played really, really well,” head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “What a great way to start.”
The stat that was seemingly the most eye-popping from this contest was how well the Rockets shot the ball. As a team, they shot 60 percent from the field.
As the home opener against Wilberforce loomed, the Rockets looked to continue their red-hot shooting, and they did resoundingly.
It was truly a team effort in the pure domination of Wilberforce. The Rockets put on an offensive clinic for the supporters at Savage Arena. Five Rockets scored double figures and eleven Rockets scored in a 99-point onslaught.
The contest was never close, as the Rockets had a commanding 52-29 halftime lead. Jackson furthered his great start to the year with another double-double, this time posting a stat line of 17-points and 10 rebounds
With big expectations this year, the Rockets will look to continue this solid start to the season and hopefully win the MAC. The team clearly has the offensive firepower to do so; one big question that will loom all year will be whether or not they have the depth on their roster to win games consistently and find solid rotations.
Next up for the Rockets is a one game road trip down I-75 to take on Wright state 7:00 PM Nov. 1 in Dayton, Ohio.