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Rockets decide to play in CBI tournament

03/15/2017, 12:30am EDT

Younger team members can work on skills

Rockets decide to play in CBI tournament

Toledo seniors Jonathan Williams, left, and Zach Garber embrace during their final home game on Feb. 28 Savage Arena. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

The four seniors on the University of Toledo men’s basketball team will have another opportunity for more game action, while the younger players on the team will get a chance for more development.

Toledo will face George Washington today in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational in Washington in what they hope will turn into a postseason run.

“Basically we decided to do this tournament for two reasons,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Number one, Zach Garber wanted to play and is able to play now and will play. For him, I wanted him to have a chance to play if we were invited. Secondly, I think it’s great for our young players Taylor Adway, Justin Roberts, and Luke Knapke, guys that haven’t played major minutes to have a chance and an opportunity to play against a really good team on the road.”

Garber, who has been out since Jan. 3 when he broke his foot against Buffalo, will have a chance to play in at least one more game during his senior year.

Senior Jordan Lauf said he is happy that Garber, his roommate, will get another chance to be out on the court.

“We’re all super excited to have Zach on the floor,” Lauf said. “I room with him and that’s all he can talk about, so getting him back on the floor is something that we really look forward to.”

George Washington (19-14, 10-8 Atlantic 10) will provide a challenging road contest for the Rockets who traveled down to Washington on Monday.

“They are a very good basketball team,” Kowalczyk said. “They were 10-8 in the Atlantic 10, which is a three or four bid league. They are very skilled and are a veteran team. They’re built similar to us in that they are not overly deep, but they are tremendously skilled.”

While Kowalczyk said he hopes to develop some of the younger players on the team in preparation for next season, the number one goal is still to advance in the tournament.

“The goal is obviously to win the game,” Kowalczyk said. “But at the same time I want it to be a growing experience for the young guys and I want it to be a great experience for Zach Garber. So those guys will play more.”

Garber, along with fellow seniors Lauf, Jonathan Williams, and Steve Taylor, Jr., relishes getting more competition.

“When I got the call from coach asking me if I wanted to play, I was excited for it,” Lauf said. “It’s a chance to play in the postseason and as competitive as all of us are, we were excited.”

Contact Brian Buckey at: or 419-724-6110.

Toledo men vs. George Washington

College Basketball Invitational, first round

Time: 7 p.m.

Records: Toledo is 17-16, George Washington is 19-14.

Radio: 1370 AM

Notes: Toledo is making its first appearance in the CBI and is participating its 14th postseason tournament in program history. … UT has appeared in the NCAA Tournament on four occasions (last in 1980), the National Invitation Tournament eight times (last in 2014) and the CIT once in 2012. … The winner of the Rockets-Colonials matchup will face either Stony Brook or UIC on Monday, March 20. … Senior Jonathan Williams leads UT in scoring at 19.6 points per game. … Senior Steve Taylor, Jr., adds 15.2 ppg, a MAC-best 12.4 rebounds per game, and a team-high 3.8 assists per game. … Senior Jordan Lauf set UT’s school record for games played with 132. … The mark was previously held by Juice Brown (2011-15) with 131. Williams ranks third in school history with 130. … The Rockets have tied a national record with eight overtime games this season. …The record was previously held by Western Kentucky (1978), Portland (1984), and Valparaiso (1993). … UT’s previous record for overtime games was five in the 1971-72 campaign. … Senior forward Tyler Cavanaugh leads the Colonials with 17.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg. …Junior guard Yula Watanabe is also scoring in double digits with 12.1 ppg.

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