Rockets Open MAC Season with 70-58 Road Win Over Kent State
KENT, OH - Toledo (5-7, 1-0 MAC) ended over a decade of frustration at Kent State's M.A.C. Center on Wednesday evening with a 70-58 triumph over the Golden Flashes in the Mid-American Conference opener for both schools.
The victory was the Rockets' first at Kent State since Jan. 29, 2000 and also snapped the Golden Flashes' 31-game winning streak against MAC West Division foes. The triumph also marked UT's first win in a conference opener since 2008 and was its first against KSU (9-6, 0-1 MAC) since Feb. 2, 2008.
Junior G Rian Pearson spearheaded UT's attack with a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds in a matchup of the MAC's top two leading scorers. Kent State's Chris Evans, who entered the game ranked second in the league with 16.5 ppg, finished with 20 points and seven boards.
Senior G Dominique Buckley and freshman C Nathan Boothe joined Pearson in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Buckley knocked down 3-of-5 three-point shots, while Boothe also blocked a team-high three shots and grabbed seven boards.
Sophomore G Julius Brown also produced one of his best floor games as a Rocket as he dished out 10 assists and committed just one turnover to go along with seven points and six rebounds in 37 minutes.
Toledo shot 43.9 percent from the field, including a 56.0 FG% in the second half. UT held the Golden Flashes to a 32.1 FG% marking the fourth straight game UT has held its opponent under 37.0 percent.
The Rockets also continued their remarkable success at the charity stripe with their 88.9 FT% (16-of-18) the sixth time they have topped the 80 percent mark this season. UT has knocked down 36 of its last 38 attempts and saw its streak of 28 free throws end in tonight's game.
UT fell behind early, 10-4, but responded with a 10-2 run to grab a 14-12 lead that it wouldn't relinquish. Pearson played a key role in UT's first half as he produced nearly half (13 pts.) of the Rockets' offensive output en routé to a 28-25 halftime advantage.
Buckley then put Toledo up a dozen, 41-29, with back-to-back treys to force the hosts to take a timeout less than four minutes into the second stanza. The Rockets maintained a comfortable cushion until an 11-2 KSU spurt made it a 55-52 ballgame with 4:42 to play.
Pearson knocked down a baseline jumper on UT's next possession, but Evans answered with a pair of free throws to keep it a one-possession contest. Boothe then took a nice feed from Brown and laid it in and was fouled resulting in a three-point play for a 60-54 lead with 3:31 left. Brown and Pearson then answered a Kent basket by draining a pair of free throws to give UT an eight-point cushion, 64-56, with 2:28 to play. Pearson put the final nail in the coffin with a three-point play for a 67-57 advantage with just over two minutes remaining.
Toledo returns to action when it hosts Central Michigan (8-6, 1-0 MAC) on Saturday, Jan. 12. Tip-off time in Savage Arena is 7:00 p.m.