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Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Junior F Matt Smith is tied for third in the MAC with an 86.7 free-throw percentage.

Rockets Heading to Cleveland State for Saturday Matinee

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 11/30/2012
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  • Toledo (2-4) returns to the road this weekend when it makes a short trip to Cleveland, OH to battle Horizon League foe Cleveland State on Saturday, Dec. 1. Tip-off time for the contest is set for 2:00 p.m. in the Wolstein Center.
  • The Rockets feature two of the MAC's top five scorers with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 19.8 ppg and sophomore G Julius Brown in fifth place at 16.7 ppg. Sitting between the Rocket duo are Kent State's Chris Evans (2nd/18.1) and Bowling Green's Jordon Crawford (3rd/17.7) and A'uston Calhoun (4th/17.0).
  • Pearson, who scored a career-high 30 points in UT's 80-68 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Wednesday's home opener, 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 are pacing the conference for a second straight year at 74.1 percent after topping the league last year with a 72.6 mark. UT has six players shooting 70.0 percent or better led by junior F Matt Smith's 86.7 mark.
  • Senior G Dominique Buckley serves as UT's top long-distance threat. He is tied for ninth in the MAC with a 46.2 3PTFG% and ranks third on the team with 9.2 ppg.
  • Cleveland State returned from an eight-day layoff on Wednesday to post a 69-63 road win at Ball State for its 10th straight win over a MAC school. The Rockets will be the third of five MAC foes the Vikings will face this season.
  • Sophomore G Charlie Lee leads CSU with 14.9 ppg and 5.6 apg, while sophomore F Anton Grady is averaging 13.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 2.2 spg but sat out Wednesday's contest at Ball State due to injury.

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 147-113 (.565) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play. 

NOTES FROM THE ROCKETS' 80-68 WIN OVER TEXAS A&M-CORPUS-CHRISTI

  • The Rockets have scored 80 or more points in three of their last four games and are averaging 77.2 ppg during this span. Rian Pearson (23.3 ppg) and Julius Brown (19.0 ppg) are leading UT during this stretch.
  • Toledo's 35 free throws and 46 free-throw attempts were its most since sinking 36-of-48 in a 93-92 (OT) loss to Akron in the first round of the 2009 MAC Tournament.
  • Toledo & Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's combined free throws made (59) made were the most in Savage Arena history.
  • The Rockets' 35 free throws made were tied for third most in Savage Arena annals. The record is 41 vs. Ohio (2/17/97) and Toledo's 46 free-throw attempts are tied for sixth in Savage history.
  • Toledo's 44 first-half points were its most in a game this season.
  • The Rockets shot 53.3 percent and have shot 53.4 percent in the first half in its last two games.
  • UT was limited to a season-low 22.2 FG% in the second half and has a 30.6 FG% in the second stanza of its last two contests.
  • Rian Pearson tallied a career-high 30 points thanks to a career-best 16 free throws and 20 free-throw attempts. Pearson's 30-point showing was the first by a Rocket since Malcolm Griffin tallied 31 at NIU on Jan. 15, 2011.
  • Pearson's 16 free throws made tied for second most in Savage Arena history with Jay Lehman (12/29/77 vs. Wyoming). His 20 free-throw attempts are tied for third most in Savage history.
  • Pearson's 16 FTs made were tied for third most in school history. Jonathan Amos was the last Rocket to do so with 16 at CMU (3/9/08).
  • Pearson's 20 free-throw attempts were tied for fifth in school history with Burt Spice vs. Kent State (1/23/54).
  • Junior F Reese Holliday scored a season-high 12 points and tied his season best with eight rebounds. He also tied his career best with eight free throws and was one shy of a personal best with eight free-throw attempts.
  • Junior F Matt Smith continued his success at the charity stripe, going 2-for-2 to raise his season mark to a team-best 86.7 percent that is tied for third in the MAC. He also tied his season best with five rebounds and two blocked shots.
  • Freshman G Josh Lemons has grabbed two or more steals in three games this season and ranks fourth on the team with 1.2 spg.

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 six games this season, he is leading the MAC with 19.8 ppg to go along with 5.5 rpg and 2.4 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 season-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.

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...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 16.7 ppg. He is also leading the Rockets with 3.7 apg and scored a season-high 25 points in UT's 82-69 win over Samford (Nov. 21).
      Brown took over the reins of Toledo's high-powered offense right from the start last year and has started every game of his collegiate career. 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 ninth in the MAC with a 46.2 3PTFG% (12-26) and is averaging 9.2 ppg. 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 averaging 5.7 ppg and 2.8 rpg this season. He has battled foul trouble and has fouled out of two of UT's six 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 8.0 ppg and a team-high 5.7 rpg while playing 28.0 mpg this season. In Wednesday's home opener, Holliday tallied a season-high 12 points, eight rebounds and sank all eight of his free-throw attempts.
      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 DISPLAYED 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.

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 is shooting even better this season with a league-high 74.1 percentage. 
      Junior F Matt Smith is tied for third in the MAC with an 86.7 FT% and is followed by senior G Dominique Buckley (81.8), junior F Reese Holliday (81.3), sophomore G Julius Brown (73.3), junior G Rian Pearson (72.5) and freshman C Nathan Boothe (70.0).

TOLEDO PRODUCES HOMECOURT TURNAROUND
      Toledo emerged victorious in Wednesday's home opener after posting 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.

ON THE HORIZON
UT will remain on the road for games at 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).

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