BOWLING GREEN — It’s been just a little more than two weeks since the most recent men’s basketball installment in the Battle of I-75.
The coaches from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University both said they won’t make any big changes from their game plan in the first contest, which the Rockets won 83-76 at Savage Arena Feb. 5.
“I don’t think it matters if you win or lose, you have to make adjustments,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Even if there are things you do well, you try to make them things you do better.
“But if you make major adjustments, especially at this time of year, I think you’re just grasping at straws.”
BG coach Louis Orr said his team will tweak some things for the 9 p.m. contest at Stroh Center.
“Not that you’re going to reinvent the wheel or come up with a secret formula, and play the game that much differently,” Orr said. “After 25 games, the foundation is set as to who you are. You just have to do what you do better.”
One modification BG hopes to make from the first game is to get off to a better start.
The Rockets scored the game’s first 11 points and the Falcons never led, although they were able to cut their deficit to one possession by the late stages of the second half.
“We’ve been able to fight back in games for most of the year,” Orr said. “I’d like to get off to a better start, though, and not fall behind early like we did.
“It’s good for your confidence to get off to a good start. But we keep fighting and keep playing.”
One area where Orr said Bowling Green could improve on the first game is from the free-throw line. Toledo made 29-of-35 free throws while the Falcons had just eight, making seven.
“The more you keep them out of the lane, and the more you keep them from attacking the basket, the better chance you’ve got [to win]," he said. “And at the other end, we have to be more aggressive and get to the free-throw line. What’s good for them is good for us, too.”
Kowalczyk said the biggest fix the Rockets will try to make is to improve defensively against BG’s guards.
Start High School grad Anthony Henderson and Jehvon Clarke each scored 23 points and combined for 14 assists as the Falcons scored 76 points, their highest total in a Mid-American Conference game this season.
“In the first game, we just didn’t do a good job with our perimeter defense,” Kowalczyk said.
While the two teams are playing for different goals — Toledo hopes to secure a bye in the MAC tournament, while BG hopes to host a first-round contest — both coaches said playing their arch-rival a second time adds some spice to the contest.
“[Toledo is] our local rival, and that makes this [game] unique in itself,” Orr said. “In the big picture, this is another MAC game, but any time you have a second chance to play anybody, you want to play well and give yourself the best chance to be successful.
“We’ve got six [MAC] games left, and we’re at home. We want to finish out strong, and every game you’re playing for MAC tournament seeding. You have to be motivated and excited for every game, but the fact that it’s Toledo, the fans come out and it’s exciting, that’s great.”
— John Wagner