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Rivalry game with BG means a lot to Rockets

01/17/2017, 12:20am EST
By By BRIAN BUCKEY BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Both teams are desperate for a victory


"It means a lot for our university and for our community, so we just have to come out and play hard," UT's Jordan Lauf said on the rivalry with BGSU. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

Make no mistake about it, for the University of Toledo men’s basketball team, this one means more.

UT coach Tod Kowalczyk is the first to admit the 168th edition of the I-75 rivalry against Bowling Green is more than just a home game against a conference opponent.

When the ball is tipped at 7 p.m. today at Savage Arena, the atmosphere inside the arena, the intensity of the players, and the level of attention from past players and coaches, and fans, all will be heightened.

“I knew obviously that this was a great rivalry with the tradition of Bowling Green and Toledo games and the past players and coaches,” said Kowalczyk, now in his seventh season as UT coach. “This game means more to the community. It means more to our institution and it means more to our players and coaches. It’s not just another game. It’s a rivalry game and we treat it as if it’s a more important game.”

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So why does this game mean so much to the northwest Ohio community?

“It’s because of the tradition, because of the close proximity, and because of the alumni bases,” Kowalczyk said. “The tradition far predates my era, that’s for sure. I have a great deal of respect for the history of both programs and the players that have come before us and the coaches that have come before us. I know how important of a game it is.”

The fact of the matter is this edition of the rivalry is important for both teams, each coming off back-to-back losses in the conference.

Toledo (9-8, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) returns home in need of a win after a tough week on the road with disappointing losses to Western Michigan and Central Michigan.

“Both games were different,” Kowalczyk said. “In one, I was very disappointed with how we played and our effort. The other game, I thought we ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw with some unbelievably tough shots by Central Michigan, and we didn’t make some shots. Both games were different, but the fact of the matter is, they are both losses and because of that, the sense of urgency for this game is even more enhanced.”

While Toledo struggled on the road, Bowling Green (7-10, 1-3 MAC) enters the game coming off home losses to Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois.

Because of the two consecutive league losses, the Rockets have dug themselves a bit of a hole early in the conference season. A win against their rivals would help get them back on track. 

“We’re definitely ready to get back home and take on a rival,” UT senior guard Jonathan Williams said. “We feel confident that it’s going to be back at home. We’ve got our Rockets supporters coming out to help us get this win. 

“It’s just all about pride and getting stops and executing down the stretch. We approach every game with a must-win attitude. We fell short the last two games. Our backs are against the wall right now, so this is a must-win game.”

UT senior Jordan Lauf, a Napoleon High School graduate, grew up around the rivalry and recognizes the importance of the game.

“Being around the area, I’ve been around it a lot,” Lauf said. “The closest schools for me have always been BG and Toledo. It means a lot for our university and for our community, so we just have to come out and play hard.”

Kowalczyk said he hopes the game will be played in front of a sold-out crowd. 

“You have two programs that are playing hard and playing the right way and hopefully we get a great turnout,” Kowalczyk said. 

Contact Brian Buckey at: bbuckey@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.

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Tag(s): College  Toledo