Toledo to Close Out 2012 with New Year's Eve Matinee vs. Chicago State
- Toledo (4-6) closes out its non-conference slate and looks to build momentum for league play with a 1:00 p.m. New Year's Eve matinee vs. Great West foe Chicago State (3-12). The Rockets will be playing their first game on Dec. 31 since a 90-53 home win over Mississippi Valley State in 1989.
- UT possesses an all-time ledger of 7-1 in games played on New Year's Eve.
- Toledo has won eight of its last nine home games dating back to last year and Saturday's 74-55 win over UIC gave UT back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
- UT has played the fewest home contests (two) of any Mid-American Conference school with all the other schools enjoying four or more home dates.
- Toledo features the MAC's top scorer with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 19.7 ppg. Sophomore G Julius Brown also appears in the Top 10 and is in eighth place with his 14.2 scoring mark.
- Pearson has been named the MAC West Division Player of the Week twice this season and needs just nine points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his collegiate career. He scored 205 (6.4 ppg) as a freshman at Green Bay in 2009-10, 589 (16.4 ppg) last year and has 197 this season.
- Toledo has picked up right where it left off as one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads. UT tops the conference at 74.4 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 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.
- Chicago State is winless in 10 road contests following Saturday's 87-44 loss at Ohio State.
- Senior F Jeremy Robinson leads CSU with 9.7 ppg but was held scoreless and played just nine minutes vs. the Buckeyes. Junior G Quinton Pippen ranks second on the team in scoring with 9.3 ppg and tallied a team-high 12 points vs. OSU.
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 149-115 (.564) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.
NOTES FROM TOLEDO's 74-55 WIN over UIC
- UIC registered several season lows for Toledo opponents including points (55), FG% (33.3), FTs made (3), FTs attempted (9), and steals (4).
- Toledo's seven blocked shots were its most since collecting six at UIC on Dec. 29, 2009.
- UT registered season highs for rebounds (48), offensive rebounds (17) and assists (18) as well as a season-low seven turnovers.
- Toledo's 85.0 free-throw percentage marked the fourth time UT has topped the 80 percent mark in a game this season.
- Junior G Rian Pearson registered his first double-double of the season and 11th of his career. He also tied a career best with five assists.
- Junior F Reese Holliday drained a career-high four three-point field goals (in six attempts) and matched his season best with 16 points.
- Junior F Matt Smith grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and finished just a point away from his first career double-double.
- Freshman C Nathan Boothe blocked a career-high four shots and has 12 rejections in his last four games. He also registered his third double-digit scoring outing and took a season-high 11 field-goal attempts.
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. He is leading the MAC with 19.7 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.6 rpg and 2.0 spg and scored a career-high 30 points in UT's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 28). Pearson also registered his first double-double of the season (11th of his career) with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals vs. UIC (Dec. 29).
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 eighth in the MAC with 14.2 ppg. He is also leading the Rockets with 4.3 apg (6th in MAC) 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 third with a 38.6 3PTFG% (17-of-44) and fifth with 8.2 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 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 3.3 rpg with a team-best 45.8 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 17 (64.7%) long-distance shots including seven of his last nine attempts from behind the arc. He also grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and scored nine points vs. UIC (Dec. 29) to just miss recording his first career double-double.
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 SPARK OFF BENCH FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Reese Holliday has given the Rockets consistent play off the bench and is third on the team with 9.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg while playing 26.1 mpg this season. Holliday has tallied a season-high 16 points on two occasions - at Cleveland State (Dec. 1) and vs. UIC (Dec. 29) - and possesses a career-high 42.1 3PTFTG% (16-of-38) and 82.1 FT% (23-of-28).
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).
BOOTHE BRINGING IT IN THE POST
Freshman C Nathan Boothe has made an immediate impact in the pivot for the Rockets in his freshman campaign. He ranks eighth in the MAC with a team-high 1.4 bpg and is also averaging 7.8 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
The Gurnee, IL native has started all 10 games for UT and scored a season-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting at Cleveland State (Dec. 1). Boothe, who also tallied 13 points and seven boards at Minnesota (Nov. 12), has picked up his defensive play in the post as of late with a season-high four rejections vs. UIC (Dec. 29) to give him 12 rejections in his last four contests.
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 tops the conference at 74.4 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark.
Senior G Dominique Buckley leads the way with an 88.2 FT% and is followed by junior F Matt Smith (85.2), junior F Reese Holliday (82.1), junior G Rian Pearson (72.5) and sophomore G Julius Brown (71.4).
TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE
Toledo has won eight of its last nine home games dating back to last season following Saturday's 74-55 victory over UIC. The Rockets 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.
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.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo opens MAC play on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Kent State before hosting Central Michigan in its league home opener on Saturday, Jan. 12. UT will play three of its first four conference games on the road with matchups at Western Michigan (Jan. 16) and Ohio (Jan. 19) following the game vs. the Chippewas.