Toledo to Tip Off 2012-13 Campaign at Loyola (IL) on Friday
- Toledo will tip off its 2012-13 campaign and 98th season of intercollegiate basketball on Friday, Nov. 9 at Loyola (IL). Tip-off time is set for 8:00 p.m. ET at the Gentile Center.
- The Rockets will play three road games in six days to open their season. Following the contest against the Ramblers, UT will head to Minnesota for a matchup with the Golden Gophers on Monday, Nov. 12. Toledo will conclude its seven-day roadtrip at Northern Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
- Toledo is the overwhelming favorite to win the Mid-American Conference's West Division after posting a 19-17 overall mark and 7-9 league ledger last year. The Rockets, who registered the second-largest turnaround in the nation last year with a +15-win improvement, return all five starters including preseason MAC West Division honorees Julius Brown and Rian Pearson.
- In terms of numbers, the Rockets welcome back 83.3 percent of their points, 82.0 percent of their rebounds and 89.5 percent of their assists from the 2011-12 campaign.
- The lone letterwinner not returning from last year's Rocket squad is junior G Curtis Dennis. A Bronx, NY native, Dennis (12.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) transferred to Iona for his senior campaign after earning honorable-mention All-MAC honors last year.
- UT has lost its last four season openers and has a 51-46 all-time record in season lidlifters. The Rockets' last season-opening victory was a 57-53 home triumph over Missouri State on Nov. 10, 2007.
- Loyola (IL) returns three starters from last year's squad which posted a 7-23 win-loss mark and 1-17 Horizon League ledger. Senior F Ben Averkamp averaged 15.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg last year, including a career-high 31-point performance in Savage Arena vs. UT, en route to earning second-team all-league honors.
- The Ramblers are one of four Horizon League schools included on UT's 2012-13 schedule. Loyola (IL) is tabbed to finish seventh in the league's preseason poll, and the Rockets will also face Detroit (2nd), Cleveland State (5th) and UIC (8th).
TOD THE BUILDER
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk posted a seven-win improvement from Year 1 (10-20) to Year 2 (17-11) at Green Bay. He doubled that feat and more at Toledo last year as UT registered 15 more wins than his first season at the Rocket helm.
When looking at his career record minus his first season at the helm at both Green Bay and Toledo, Coach Kowalczyk's record is 145-109 (.571) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.
HOMECOMING IN THE WINDY CITY
Junior F DeLino Dear (Chicago, IL), sophomore G Julius Brown (Markham, IL) and freshman C Nathan Boothe (Gurnee, IL) as well as associate head coach Angres Thorpe (Chicago, IL) and assistant coach Jason Kalsow (Huntley, IL) will each have family and friends in attendance when the Rockets face Loyola (IL) on Friday. The Rockets' visit to Chicago has become an almost-annual roadtrip with UT playing in the Windy City four of the last five years.
PEARSON PRODUCES MAC PLAYER OF YEAR-CALIBER SEASON
Junior G Rian Pearson made his presence felt in his first season in the MAC last season, finishing third in the voting for MAC Player of the Year and earning first-team NABC All-District 14 and second-team All-MAC accolades. Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead with 16.4 ppg and ranked third with 8.3 rpg (1st with 2.9 offensive rpg). Pearson was a strong defender as well, leading the team with 1.6 spg (T-6th in MAC) and ranking tied for third in the MAC with 1.9 spg in league games only. He tied a school record with seven steals to go along with 19 points and seven rebounds in a career-high 38 minutes vs. Ball State (Jan. 10).
Pearson tallied a career-best 29 points, 12 rebounds and four steals at Akron (Feb. 1) and registered an impressive 18-point, career-high 17-rebound effort against Ohio (Feb. 8). He notched 12 20-point outings, ranked second in the MAC with 10 double-doubles with three of those coming in his last six contests.
Prior to transferring to Toledo, the Raytown, MO native averaged 6.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg in 16.5 mpg at Green Bay in the 2009-10 campaign. He came on strong at the end of the year, averaging 11.3 points and 4.9 boards over his last seven games.
MORE RIAN RUMBLINGS
Rian Pearson was the only player to rank in the MAC's Top 10 in points (16.4 ppg/T-1st), rebounds (8.3 rpg/3rd) and steals (1.6 spg/T-6th)...He ranked fifth nationally in rebounding among guards...Pearson led the Rockets in rebounding a team-high 28 times (including 16 straight games from Jan. 18-Mar. 7), scoring on a team-best 17 occasions and steals 12 times.
Running the Show
Reigning 2011-12 MAC Freshman of the Year Julius Brown served as the quarterback of Toledo's high-powered offense last year and was the igniter for one of the MAC's top offenses. He dished out seven or more assists on 14 occasions (career-high 11 vs. McNeese State to go along with 15 pts.) and set a school record for most points scored (427) by a freshman in school history.
Brown was named the MAC West Division Player of the Week twice (Feb. 20, Feb. 27) and also was named the MAC's Freshman of the Month for February. He ranked sixth nationally among freshman in assists and ranked in the MAC's Top 16 in assists (4th/4.9 apg), assist/turnover ratio (6th/1.6) and points (16th/11.9 ppg).
The Markham, IL native scored in double figures in a season-high nine straight games during the month of February and averaged 14.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.0 rpg and a 46.2 3PTFG% (12-of-26) to earn MAC Freshman of the Month accolades.
Brown tied his season high with 29 points and tied a school record for a MAC game as well with a 90.9 FG% (10-of-11) in UT's 72-67 win over Central Michigan (Feb. 22). Brown's previous season best occurred when he tallied a season-high 29 points with a season-best seven treys at Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 22).
FROM WAY DOWNTOWN
Senior G Dominique Buckley topped the MAC with an 89.5 free-throw percentage last year and also knocked down a team-high 1.7 treys per game (T-12th in MAC) and ranked second with a 41.9 3PTFG% (6th in MAC). He also was second on the team with 2.9 apg (15th in MAC), a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio and fourth with 9.7 ppg.
A Romulus, MI native, Buckley was named MAC West Player of the Week on Dec. 5 after scoring a career-high 21 points in back-to-back games vs. UNC-Wilmington and Chicago State. He also averaged 5.5 apg and 5.0 rpg with a 50.0 3PTFG% and 93.8 FT% and scored 18 second-half points in each contest.
Buckley played in 27 games in 2009-10 for Iowa State before transferring to Toledo. He averaged 1.4 ppg and 0.9 apg for the Cyclones with a 40.9 3PTFG% (9-of-22) in 7.4 mpg. Buckley enjoyed a standout prep career at Romulus H.S. where he was ranked as the nation's 124th-best player according to ESPN 150 rankings.
SMITH AN INSIDE-OUTSIDE THREAT FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Matt Smith, who ranked fifth on the team with 8.6 ppg and third with 4.1 rpg last year, ranked sixth in the MAC with a team-high 54.0 FG%. The Whitewright, TX native raised his level of play against the MAC's East Division, averaging 10.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg with an 86.4 FT% (19-of-22) in UT's eight contests. Smith scored his MAC season-best 18 points and grabbed six boards against Ohio (Feb. 8) and tallied 12 points and eight rebounds vs. Miami (Mar. 5) in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
Smith tied for 10th in the MAC with a team-high 28 blocks (0.8 bpg) and shot a team-high 45.5% (20-of-44) from three-point range.
Smith started 34 of 35 games for UW-Green Bay as a freshman in 2009-10, averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.9 mpg.
HOLLIDAY PROVIDES BOARDWORK & DEFENSE FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Reese Holliday averaged 7.1 ppg and ranked second on the team and 13th in the MAC with 5.8 rpg last year while also receiving the assignment of guarding the opposition's top scorer. He also tied for eighth in the MAC with 4.1 defensive rpg and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds vs. Youngstown State (Dec. 17). Holliday provided a significant impact for the Rockets in the MAC Tournament, averaging 9.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg with a 57.1 3FG% (4-of-7) in three contests.
Holliday topped the league's freshmen and sophomores and ranked eighth overall in the MAC in his rookie campaign with 6.6 rpg. He also led the league with 2.83 offensive rpg.
The Kansas City, KS native was the first Rocket to register double-doubles in back-to-back games since Jerrah Young performed the feat vs. EMU and at CMU on Mar. 4 and Mar. 9, 2008. He also was the first UT player to record double-digit rebound totals in three straight contests in over 10 years (Greg Stempin-Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2000).
ROCKETS DISPLAY IMPRESSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2011-12
Toledo produced one of the top turnarounds in college basketball last season with its 15-win improvement from a 4-28 win-loss mark in 2010-11. Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk and his coaching staff inherited a program that had endured three straight losing seasons (11-19 in 2007-08, 7-25 in 2008-09 and 4-28 in 2009-10) after capturing the 2006-07 MAC regular-season title.
Kowalczyk also achieved significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 at UW-Green Bay, going from 10-20 his first season to 17-11 his second year.
RECAPPING ROCKETS' POSTSEASON HISTORY
Toledo made its first appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last year for its first postseason berth since playing in the 2007 National Invitation Tournament. The Rockets have made appearances in four NCAA and six NIT Tournaments during its 97-year history. The Rockets' four NCAA berths came in 1954, 1967, 1979 and 1980, while UT's seven NIT berths came in 1942, 1943, 1981, 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2007.
PERIMETER PROWESS BUOYED ROCKETS' SUCCESS DOWN STRETCH...
Toledo was red-hot from behind the three-point arc over its last 12 contests last year, posting an impressive 43.7 3PTFG% (87-of-199) during that stretch. That success moved the Rockets into second place in the MAC with a 36.8 3PTFG% after notching a 33.3 3PTFG% in its first 24 contests.
Curtis Dennis led the surge with 31 treys and a 46.3 mark (31-of-67), including five at Bowling Green (Feb. 11) and vs. Eastern Michigan (Mar. 3). Sophomore F Matt Smith (52.9%, 9-of-17), sophomore F Reese Holliday (47.6%, 10-of-21) and junior G Dominique Buckley (43.5%, 20-of-46) have also played key roles in UT's perimeter success.
....AS WAS DEFENDING THE THREE
The Rockets also displayed dramatic improvement in their stretch run last year defending their opponent's three-point attempts. Over the last 12 games, UT allowed its opponents to shoot 30.0% (75-of-250). Robert Morris hit 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) in UT's second-round CIT loss for the highest mark by an opponent during this stretch.
Taking Advantage of Charity
Toledo topped the Mid-American Conference last year with an impressive 72.6 FT% and was even better in league play with a MAC-best 73.9 mark. UT's shooting mark was its highest since converting 74.6 percent in the 1995-96 season. The Rockets made 15.1 free throws per game compared to its opponents' total of 11.5 per contest. Dominique Buckley, who ended the season with 17 consecutive free throws, led the MAC at 89.5 percent (68-of-76).
KEYS FOR A ROCKET VICTORY IN 2011-12
Toledo was 16-6 when holding its opponent to 45 percent shooting or lower...The Rockets were 18-5 when their opponent posted a lower FG%...Toledo was 14-6 when holding its opponent under 70 points...UT was 14-4 when it scored 70 or more points...The Rockets were 13-4 when outrebounding their opposition...UT was 17-5 when leading at the half and 16-3 when leading with five minutes remaining...The Rockets were 8-3 when four or more players scored in double figures...Toledo was 12-3 when Dominique Buckley scored in double figures.
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ROCKETS' CLOSE CALLS
Toledo registered a 4-7 win-loss mark last year in games decided by three points or less. Prior to last season, UT was involved in just seven contests (3-4 record) decided by three points or less in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns combined.
TOLEDO PRODUCES HOMECOURT TURNAROUND
Toledo posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena last season for its first winning home record since the 2007-08 campaign when it registered a 9-3 mark. After experiencing just one losing home campaign (7-9 in 1991-92) in the previous 51 years, the Rockets notched 6-7, 4-11 and 4-12 win-loss marks for a combined 14-30 (.318) ledger over the previous three years (2008-11) in Savage Arena.
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk posted a 76-28 record (.731) at the Resch Center during his eight-year Green Bay tenure. In his last three seasons, the Phoenix were even better at home by posting a 35-9 (.795) win-loss mark.
Prior to the last three seasons, UT had posted a 55-8 (.873) home record for a five-year period from 2003-08 and was 107-23 (.823) on its homecourt from 1998-2008.
FOCUS ON LIMITING TURNOVERS
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk places a high emphasis on keeping turnovers at a premium. Kowalczyk's teams at Green Bay averaged fewer than 14.0 miscues per game in each of his last seven seasons at the Phoenix helm, including an impressive 11.7 in 2006-07 and 12.4 in 2009-10. The Rockets averaged 15.9 turnovers last year (with just seven scholarship players on their active roster) and ranked last in the MAC with a minus-4.26 turnover margin.
Toledo committed 13.6 turnovers per contest last year (including a season-low five vs. Western Michigan on Feb. 25).
BREAKING THE CLASSES DOWN
The Rockets' roster for 2012-13 includes just one senior (Dominique Buckley). Toledo's junior class consists of DeLino Dear, James Ewing, Reese Holliday, Rian Pearson, Matt Smith and Richard Wonnell. UT has two sophomores - Julius Brown and AJ Mathew - on its roster as well as three freshmen - Nathan Boothe, Josh Lemons and Aubrey Williams.
SENIORS: Dominique Buckley.
JUNIORS: DeLino Dear, James Ewing, Reese Holliday, Rian Pearson, Matt Smith, Richard Wonnell.
SOPHOMORES: Julius Brown, AJ Mathew, Anthony Rice III. (Note: Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon will be juniors in 2013-14 after sitting out this year due to NCAA transfer rules.)
FRESHMEN: Nathan Boothe, Josh Lemons, Aubrey Williams. (Note: Aubrey Williams is expected to redshirt this season.)
ROCKETS ON TV
Toledo will have two of its contests televised on a regional basis this year. The Rockets will be featured on the MAC's television package on SportsTime Ohio twice, visiting defending MAC Tournament champion Ohio on Jan. 19 and hosting defending MAC regular-season champion Akron on Jan. 23.
FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA
Toledo's 15-player roster originates from eight different states across the United States of America. This year's Rockets hail from Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo will remain on the road following its contest at Loyola (IL) when it travels to Minneapolis, MN to battle Big Ten Conference foe Minnesota on Monday, Nov. 12. UT will conclude its six-day, three-game road swing when it heads to Cedar Rapids, IA to face Missouri Valley Conference member Northern Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 14. UT will play two more games away from Savage Arena before opening their home campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 28 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.