Rockets Hosting Siena Heights in Exhibition Contest on Tuesday
- Toledo (3-6) hosts NAIA foe Siena Heights (3-8) in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Dec. 18 in its final contest prior to taking a break for the holidays. Tip-off time for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m. inside Savage Arena.
- The Rockets have played eight of their first nine games this season away from Savage Arena. UT will conclude its non-conference slate next weekend with home matchups against UIC (Dec. 29) and Chicago State (Dec. 31).
- Toledo features the MAC's top scorer with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 19.2 ppg. Sophomore G Julius Brown also appears in the Top 10 and is tied for sixth place with his 14.9 scoring mark.
- Last week, Pearson was tabbed as the MAC West Division Player of the Week for the second time this season and the fifth occasion in his Rocket career. The 2011-12 Second-Team All-MAC honoree led Toledo for the week with 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and also dished out 2.5 assists per game while registering an impressive 59.3 FG%.
- Toledo has picked up right where it left off as one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads. UT ranks second at 73.4 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Only Bowling Green (73.5) is converting at a higher rate than the Rockets.
- UT has four players shooting 70.0 percent or better led by senior G Dominique Buckley's 88.2 mark.
- 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 43-26 (.623).
- Sophomore G Ryan Hopson paces Siena Heights offensively with 10.6 ppg and is the only Saint scoring in double figures.
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 148-115 (.563) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.
POST-GAME NOTES FROM UT's 67-59 WIN AT EASTERN ILLINOIS
- The Rockets now trail the all-time series vs. Eastern Illinois by a 2-1 margin with the road team posting wins in each meeting.
- Toledo registered a season-high 59.1 FG% and also posted a season-best 64.0 FG% in the second half.
- The Rockets' 50.0 FT% (9-of-18) was a season low and ended a six-game streak of shooting 70 percent or better from the charity stripe.
- UT held a 30-28 advantage on the boards and has a 2-1 win-loss mark when outrebounding its opponent.
- The Rockets recorded a season-high 30 points in the paint and shot 66.7 percent (20-of-30) from inside the three-point arc.
- Toledo's four steals were a season low and EIU's 10 turnovers were the fewest by a Rocket opponent this season.
- Rian Pearson's nine rebounds were a season high and equaled the most by a Rocket this season. Pearson also led the Rockets in scoring for a fourth time this season.
- Matt Smith scored in double figures for a third-straight game. After missing his first seven three-point field-goal attempts this season, Smith has connected on 11 of his last 14 (78.6%) including his last six attempts from behind the arc.
- Nathan Boothe tallied a season-high three blocked shots for a second straight game. Boothe has eight rejections in his last three contests and is averaging a team-best 1.1 bpg this season.
- Dominique Buckley dished out a season-high four assists and scored 13 points for his first double-digit scoring effort in his last six contests.
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 nine games this season, he is leading the MAC with 19.2 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.2 rpg and 1.9 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 and is tied for sixth in the MAC with 14.9 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 up right where he left off last year as one of the MAC's top long-distance shooters. Buckley leads the team with an 88.2 FT% and ranks second with a 43.2 3PTFG% (16-of-37) and fifth with 8.6 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 8.8 ppg and 2.6 rpg with a team-best 47.6 3PTFG%, scored a season-high 20 points at Cleveland State (Dec. 1) and followed that up with 15 points at Detroit (Dec. 5) and 10 at Eastern Illinois (Dec. 8) After missing his first seven three-point field-goal attempts this season, Smith has connected on 11 of his last 14 (78.6%) including his last six attempts from behind the arc.
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 is tied for third on the team with 8.8 ppg and third with 5.0 rpg while playing 26.8 mpg this season. Holliday tallied a season-high 16 points at Cleveland State (Dec. 1) and is possesses a career-high 37.5 3PTFTG% (12-of-32) and 80.8 FT% (21-of-26).
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 has picked up right where it left off as one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads. UT ranks second at 73.4 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Only Bowling Green (73.5) is converting at a higher rate than the Rockets.
Senior G Dominique Buckley leads the way with an 88.2 FT% and is followed by junior F Matt Smith (84.0), junior F Reese Holliday (80.8) and junior G Rian Pearson (71.4).
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
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.