Rockets to Entertain Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Home Opener Wednesday Night
- Toledo (1-4) opens its 2012-13 home campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 28 when it hosts Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-3). Tip-off time for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m. inside Savage Arena.
- The Rockets are the last Mid-American Conference squad to play a home game. Eastern Michigan (5-1), Kent State (4-2) and Ohio (5-0) have each played a league-high five home contests.
- UT features two of MAC's top five scorers with junior G Rian Pearson ranking second at 17.8 ppg and sophomore G Julius Brown in fifth place at 16.8 ppg. Entering Tuesday's action, Bowling Green's A'uston Calhoun topped the league at 17.8 ppg with Kent State's Chris Evans (17.2) and Buffalo's Javon McCrea (17.0) in third and fourth place, respectively.
- Pearson was tabbed as the MAC West Division Player of the Week on Monday for the first time this season and the fourth occasion in his Rocket career. The 2011-12 Second-Team All-MAC honoree averaged 22.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.5 spg and 2.5 apg in two games last week.
- Toledo has picked up right where it left off as one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads. The Rockets rank second at 73.2 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. UT has four players shooting 75.0 percent or better led by junior F Matt Smith's 84.6 mark.
- Senior G Dominique Buckley serves as UT's top long-distance threat. He is tied for fifth in the MAC with a 52.4 3PTFG% and ranks third on the team with 9.4 ppg.
- Toledo has a 17-2 mark in its last 19 home openers with its two losses coming in 2009 (Eastern Illinois) and 2010 (UIC).
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak. After opening the season with a 60-49 home win over Texas Lutheran, the Islanders have lost road games at Denver (68-51) and Utah State (77-68) before Sunday's 77-75 home setback to Houston.
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 146-113 (.564) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.
PEARSON LOOKS TO DUPLICATE MAC PLAYER OF YEAR-CALIBER SEASON
After making his presence felt immediately in his first season in the MAC last season, junior G Rian Pearson will look to raise that level of play even higher in the 2012-13 campaign. Pearson finished third in the voting for MAC Player of the Year a year ago and also earned first-team NABC All-District 14 and second-team All-MAC accolades. In his first five games this season, he is averaging 17.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.6 spg.
Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead last year 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) last year...He is second in the league this season in points (17.8 ppg) and fourth in steals (2.6 spg)...Pearson ranked fifth nationally in rebounding among guards last year...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
After capturing MAC Freshman of the Year honors last year, Julius Brown ranks second on the team and fifth in the MAC this year with 16.8 ppg. He is also leading the Rockets with 3.2 apg and scored a season-high 25 points in UT's 82-69 win over Samford (Nov. 21).
Brown served as the quarterback of Toledo's high-powered offense last year. He has dished out seven or more assists on 15 occasions in his career (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 has picked right where he left off last year as one of the MAC's top long-distance shooters. Buckley is tied for fifth in the MAC with a 52.4 3PTFG% (11-21) and is averaging 9.4 ppg in five games. In UT's 84-81 (OT) loss at Northern Iowa on Nov. 14, Buckley scored a season-high 19 points and tied his career high with five treys (in seven attempts).
In 2011-12, Buckley topped the MAC with an 89.5 free-throw percentage 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, is off to a slow start this season averaging 5.4 ppg and 2.4 rpg. He has battled foul trouble and has fouled out of two of UT's five games.
Smith ranked sixth in the MAC last year 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.
HOLLIDAY PROVIDES BOARDWORK & DEFENSE FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Reese Holliday has given the Rockets consistent play off the bench by averaging 7.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg while playing 28.0 mpg this season. Last year, Holliday ranked second on the team and 13th in the MAC with 5.8 rpg 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.
In 2010-11, 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. He also was the first Rocket 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.
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 has started even better this season and is ranked second with a 73.2 percentage.
Junior F Matt Smith ranks fifth in the MAC with an 84.6 FT% and is followed by freshman C Nathan Boothe (77.8), sophomore G Julius Brown (77.3) and senior G Dominique Buckley (75.0)
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.
Zach Garber, Jordan Lauf and Jonathan Williams to Join Men's Hoops Program in 2013-14
Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk announced in the early signingthe addition of three student-athletes to the Rockets' program for the 2013-14 campaign. Kowalczyk said that 6-9, 225-pound forward/center Zach Garber (Carey, OH), 6-5, 190-pound guard Jordan Lauf (Napoleon, OH) and 6-3, 180-pound combo guard Jonathan Williams (Southfield, MI) have each signed national letters of intent during the early signing period which began today.
Garber averaged 19.7 ppg and 12.4 rpg en route to earning second-team Division IV all-state honors as a junior at Vanlue High School. He shot 62 percent from the field, 76 percent from the free-throw line and blocked 57 shots in helping the Wildcats tie for third place (7-2) in the Blanchard Valley Conference and finish 17-4 overall.
"Zach is a skilled post player who will strengthen our frontline," Kowalczyk said. "He moves well for his size, can knock down shots from the perimeter and is someone we think can develop into a very good player."
A second-team Division II all-state selection, Lauf led Napoleon to the Northern Lakes League title as a junior with a 13-1 league mark and an 18-4 overall ledger. He averaged a league-best 21.9 ppg, ranked second with 9.8 rpg and also dished out 2.8 apg. A standout wide receiver, Lauf has caught 28 passes for 674 yards this fall for an impressive 24.1 ypc and scored 14 touchdowns for a Wildcat squad (11-1-1) that advanced to the Division III regional finals.
"Jordan is a great athlete who is only going to get better as a basketball player," Kowalczyk said. "He can really shoot the ball from the perimeter and with his size he will be a tough matchup for opponents. We also feel that with Jordan's toughness he can become a lock-down defender."
A first-team Class A all-state honoree as a junior at Southfield-Lathrup High School, Williams displayed his explosiveness on the offensive end with 28.4 ppg in addition to averaging 6.0 rpg and 5.0 apg.
"Jonathan is a prolific scorer who can provide us immediate help in our backcourt," Kowalczyk said. "He's an athletic, combo guard who can get to the basket and knock down shots from the perimeter. Jonathan is a tough player as well, and we feel he will develop into a strong defensive player."
ON THE HORIZON
UT will return to the road for games at Cleveland State (Dec. 1), Detroit (Dec. 5) and Eastern Illinois (Dec. 8) before hosting Siena Heights (Dec. 18) in an exhibition contest. The Rockets will close out their non-conference slate with home games vs. UIC (Dec. 29) and Chicago State (Dec. 31).