Second-Half Surge Propels Rockets to 82-69 Victory over Samford
FORT MYERS, FL - Toledo's 18-1 burst to open the second half propelled the Rockets to their first victory of the season on Wednesday, an 82-69 win over Samford (1-4) in Alico Arena. The contest was played as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis on the Mainland being held at Florida Gulf Coast University. UT (1-3) will face the winner of tonight's second game pitting the host Eagles against Alcorn State tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.
"We played much better in the second half," Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "Our press led to some easy baskets at the start of the half and we also made some threes. I thought our shot selection in the first half was good but we didn't play with the fire and intensity that we needed to."
Sophomore G Julius Brown topped the Rockets offensively with 25 points and also tied his career best with six rebounds. He was joined in double figures by junior G Rian Pearson (17 pts., game-high five steals) and senior G Dominique Buckley (15 pts., career-high eight reb.).
Brown's and Buckley's performance on the glass help UT dominate the boards with a 44-28 advantage. Junior F Reese Holliday shared team rebounding honors with Buckley and also contributed a season-high nine points.
Toledo also held a significant edge at the free-throw line, knocking down 31-of-40 attempts compared to the Bulldogs' 10-of-17 conversion rate. Brown and Pearson played a big role in that department with 11-of-14 and 9-of-13 performances, respectively.
"They didn't guard me that well on ball screens today and that allowed me to get to the rim and penetrate," said Brown who registered a career-high 29 points in Alico Arena last year. "I want to do whatever I can to help our team win and tonight I was able to get to the free-throw line."
Brown and Buckley keyed the Rockets' quick start to the second stanza with a pair of threes for a 37-31 lead to force a Bulldog timeout two minutes after intermission. UT increased its cushion to 47-32 on another Buckley three-point with 15:26 remaining.
The Rockets maintained control until an 11-4 Samford spurt made it a two-point contest, 63-61, with 5:27 to play. That was as close as the Bulldogs would get though as UT quickly assumed control with a 10-1 surge capped off by a Holliday trey with 3:52 remaining.