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Junior F Matt Smith ranks third in the MAC with an 87.0 FT% and sixth with a 45.0 3PTFG%.
Courtesy: Toledo Athletics

Toledo to Close Out Long Road Stretch Saturday Evening at Eastern Illinois

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 12/07/2012
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QUICK HITTERS

  • Toledo (2-6) wraps up a series of road games to open the season with a trip to Charleston, IL to face Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Illinois (3-7) on Saturday, Dec. 8. Tip-off time for the contest is set for 6:00 p.m. (CT) in Lantz Arena.
  • The Rockets' contest against the Panthers will be their eighth of nine games away from Savage Arena and is the return game from UT's matchup vs. EIU in the 2010 ESPNU Bracketbuster event.
  • Toledo features the MAC's top scorer with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 18.9 ppg. Sophomore G Julius Brown also appears in the Top 10 with his 15.5 scoring mark.
  • Pearson, who scored a career-high 30 points in UT's 80-68 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 28, has made significant improvement at the charity stripe this season. He possesses a 75.4 FT% (46-of-61) after entering the 2012-13 campaign with a 66.7 career mark.
  • 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 75.7 percent after topping 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 87.0 mark which ranks third in the MAC.
  • Four of Toledo's six losses have been by six points or less - 84-81 (OT) at Northern Iowa, 78-73 at Cleveland State, 79-73 at Detroit and 72-66 at Florida Gulf Coast.
  • The combined record of the opponents UT has lost to is 35-16 (.678).
  • Eastern Illinois is 1-4 at home this season under first-year head coach Jay Spoonhour (as well as former Rocket assistant coach Bob Sundvold) and is on a three-game losing streak.
  • Sophomore C Josh Piper is the only Panther scoring in double figures at 11.6 ppg for an Eastern Illinois squad averaging 56.9 ppg.

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 147-115 (.561) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.

18 Turnovers Too Much to Overcome in UT'S 79-73 Loss at Detroit
Too many turnovers and a red-hot Detroit perimeter attack proved costly for Toledo on Wednesday evening in a 79-73 setback to the Titans inside Calihan Hall.

The Rockets outshot (45.6-42.6) and outrebounded (37-35) Detroit, but UT committed 18 turnovers for its second-highest amount of miscues this season.

Sophomore G Julius Brown and junior G Rian Pearson topped Toledo with 20 and 19 points, respectively, with junior F Matt Smith also in double figures for the second-straight contest with 15 points. Freshman C Nathan Boothe paced the Rockets on the boards with a season-high nine caroms to go along with six points and a season-best three blocked shots.

Junior G Jason Calliste spearheaded the Titan attack with a career-high 24 points with sophomore F Juwan Howard Jr. contributing 16 points. The duo shot a combined 9-of-18 from three-point range after entering the contest with a combined 30.3 3PTFG% (17-of-56). That performance spurred the hosts to an impressive 42.9 3PTFG% (12-of-28) for the game.

Smith poured in 11 of the team's first 17 points to give the Rockets a 17-8 advantage just over five minutes into the contest. Howard was just as hot for Detroit though as he scored 14 of the Titans' first 16 points.

Detroit eventually took a 28-23 lead later in the opening stanza, but a Brown trey evened the score at 30-30 at the 3:54 mark. Baskets from Boothe and Pearson provided the Rockets with a four-point cushion, however, Calliste and freshman F Anton Wilson buried threes to give Detroit a 38-36 halftime advantage.

UT appeared ready to break free from the Titans midway through the second half after back-to-back three-pointers from junior F Reese Holliday put the Rockets up 54-48 with 11:16 remaining.

Detroit responded with a 22-3 run though over the next six minutes during which it limited UT to just three free throws to take a commanding 70-57 advantage.

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 is looking 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 eight games this season, he is leading the MAC with 18.9 ppg to go along with a team-high 5.9 rpg and 2.1 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 this year with 15.5 ppg. He is also leading the Rockets with 4.3 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 16 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 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 ranks second on the team with a 43.3 3PTFG% (13-of-30) and is averaging 8.0 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 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 is averaging 8.6 ppg and 2.5 rpg with a team-best 87.0 FT%, scored a season-high 20 points last Saturday at Cleveland State and followed that up with 15 points on Wednesday at Detroit. He also knocked down a career-best three treys in both contests.

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).

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 and ranks third on the team with 9.1 ppg and second with 5.5 rpg while playing 27.5 mpg this season. In last Saturday's 78-73 loss at Cleveland State, Holliday tallied a season-high 16 points and has knocked down 15-of-16 free throws in his last three games.

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.

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 is shooting even better this season with a league-high 75.7 percentage.

Junior F Matt Smith leads the way and ranks third in the MAC with an 87.0 FT% and is followed by senior G Dominique Buckley (86.7), junior F Reese Holliday (83.3) and junior G Rian Pearson (75.4).

TOLEDO PRODUCES HOMECOURT TURNAROUND
Toledo emerged victorious in its home opener vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 28 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 play one more road game at Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Dec. 8 before hosting Siena Heights on Tuesday, Dec. 18 in an exhibition contest. The Rockets will close out their non-conference slate with home games vs. UIC on Saturday, Dec. 29 and Chicago State on Monday, Dec. 31.

Toledo opens MAC play on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Kent State before hosting Central Michigan in its league home opener on Saturday, Jan. 12.

     
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