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Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Junior G Rian Pearson leads the MAC with 19.0 ppg.

Rockets to Visit Defending MAC Champ Ohio in SportsTime Ohio Contest Saturday

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 01/18/2013
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  • Toledo (6-8, 2-1 MAC) looks to rebound from its first setback of the Mid-American Conference campaign when it travels to Athens, OH to battle defending MAC Tournament champion Ohio University (12-5, 3-0 MAC) on Saturday, Jan. 19. Tip-off time for the contest which is being televised live on SportsTime Ohio and ESPN3, is set for 6:00 p.m. The Rockets suffered a 79-56 setback at Western Michigan on Wednesday, while the Bobcats rolled to an 81-63 home win over Northern Illinois.
  • UT has played the fewest home contests (four) of any MAC school. Following Saturday's game at Ohio, the Rockets will have played 11 of 15 games on the road.
  • Toledo features the MAC's top scorer with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 19.0 ppg. Sophomore G Julius Brown also appears in the Top 10 and is in ninth place with his 13.8 scoring mark.
  • Pearson has been named the MAC West Division Player of the Week three times this season, while Brown was honored on Monday for the first time with his stellar play vs. Kent State and CMU.
  • Toledo has continued as one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads this season. UT paces the conference at 76.9 percent (and ranked eighth in the nation as of Jan. 13) after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark.
  • Five of Toledo's eight losses have been by six points or less - 84-81 (OT) at Northern Iowa, 78-73 at Cleveland State, 58-53 loss vs. Chicago State, 79-73 at Detroit and 72-66 at Florida Gulf Coast.
  • Ohio leads the nation with an impressive 19.6 assists per game and tops the MAC in seven different statistical categories, including FG% (48.4), 3PTFG% (37.6), steals (9.6 spg), turnover margin (+4.8) and 3FGs per game (8.8).
  • Senior G D.J. Cooper leads a balanced Ohio attack with 14.4 ppg and also ranks third nationally with 8.2 apg.

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 151-117 (.563) overall and 78-59 (.569) in conference play.

 AMONG NATION'S BEST AT TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHARITY
      Toledo has been one of the MAC's top free-throw shooting squads for a second-straight season. UT tops the conference and ranked eighth nationally (as of Jan. 13) at 76.9 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Davidson tops the nation with an amazing 79.4 FT% with Central Michigan (72.9-2nd), Ohio (71.5-3rd), Bowling Green (70.7-4th), Kent State (70.6-5th) and Western Michigan (70.5-6th) each topping 70 percent.
      The Rockets have topped the 80 percent mark in a game on six occasions, including a school-record 20-of-20 vs. Chicago State (Dec. 31). UT shot 88.9 percent (16-of-18) at Kent State (Jan. 9) and had a streak of 28 straight free throws made snapped in that contest.
      Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk is no stranger to strong free-throw shooting squads. His 2008-09 Phoenix squad finished the season ranked second nationally in free-throw shooting percentage at 78.7 percent.

TAKING AN INDIVIDUAL LOOK AT UT'S FREE-THROW SHOOTING
      Junior F Matt Smith leads the way with an 88.2 FT% (3rd in MAC) and is followed by senior G Dominique Buckley (84.2), junior F Reese Holliday (82.5-7th in MAC), freshman G Josh Lemons (80.0), sophomore G Julius Brown (78.9-9th in MAC) and junior G Rian Pearson (74.5-14th in MAC).
      Pearson, who has improved on his 68.0 percentage as a sophomore, sank a career-best 16 free throws against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi which are tied for third most in a game in school history. He leads the Rockets in free throws made (73) and attempted (98) for a second straight season with Brown ranking second with 45 free throws and 57 attempts.

STREAKING AT THE LINE
      Freshman G Julius Brown has converted his last 19 free-throw attempts dating back to UT's game at Eastern Illinois (Dec. 8). That run of success has raised his free-throw percentage from 68.4 percent to a career-high 78.9 percent.
      Junior F Matt Smith has the Rockets' next best streak at the charity stripe with nine consecutive conversions.

 ROCKETS VS. OHIO IN 2011-12
     Toledo and Ohio split their two meetings last season. The Rockets posted a 77-73 home win before falling to the Bobcats by a 77-73 margin in the second round of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.
      Former Rocket Curtis Dennis (now at Iona averaging 3.7 ppg and playing 13.3 mpg) led Toledo last year vs. Ohio with 16.0 ppg and a 90.9 FT% (10-of-11). Also averaging in double figures were junior G Rian Pearson (11.5 ppg), sophomore G Julius Brown (11.5 ppg), junior F Matt Smith (11.5 ppg) and junior G Reese Holliday (10.5 ppg).
      Pearson led Toledo on the boards with 10.5 rpg to help the Rockets hold a plus-3.0 rebounding margin in the two games.
      Toledo shot 42.6 percent from the field and was 34.5 percent (10-of-29) from three-point range in two contests against the Bobcats.
      D.J. Cooper paced Ohio with 18.0 ppg and 5.0 apg with Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt averaging 12.0 ppg and 11.0 ppg, respectively. Keely also tied Ivo Baltic with a team-best 6.5 rpg. 
      Ohio posted a 38.5 FG% against the Rockets and was 31.1 percent (14-of-45) from three-point range.

PEARSON ENJOYING ANOTHER STELLAR SEASON IN MIDNIGHT BLUE AND GOLD UNIFORM
      After making his presence felt immediately in his first season in the MAC last season, junior G Rian Pearson has followed that up with even more spectacular play. 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 19.0 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.0 rpg and 1.9 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 tying 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 and is doing so again this season...Pearson is joined this year by Kent State's Chris Evans (17.1 ppg/2nd, 7.7 rpg/4th, 1.9 spg/T-3rd)...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 13.8 ppg (9th in MAC). He is also leading the Rockets with 4.9 apg (4th in MAC) and scored a season-high 25 points in UT's 82-69 win over Samford (Nov. 21). Brown was selected MAC West Division Player of Week on Monday after he averaged 14.0 ppg, 9.5 apg and 6.5 rpg in UT's wins at Kent State (Jan. 9) and vs. Central Michigan (Jan. 12).
      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 19 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).

SMITH AN INSIDE-OUTSIDE THREAT FOR ROCKETS
      Junior F Matt Smith, who is averaging 8.9 ppg and 3.3 rpg and ranks second on the team with a 40.5 3PTFG% (7th in MAC), 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 15 of his last 30 (50.0%) long-distance shots. 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. 

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, who scored 15 points in his 100th collegiate game at Kent State on Jan. 9, leads the Rockets with a 40.9 3PTFG% (27-of-66) and is fourth with 8.5 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.

HOLLIDAY PROVIDES SPARK OFF BENCH FOR ROCKETS
      Junior F Reese Holliday has given the Rockets consistent play off the bench and ranks third on the team with 4.7 rpg and a 37.0 3PTFG% while scoring 8.1 ppg in 25.1 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 37.0 3PTFTG% (17-of-46) and 84.4 FT% (27-of-32).
      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 is sixth in the MAC with a team-high 1.6 bpg and is also averaging 8.3 ppg and 5.4 rpg.
      The Gurnee, IL native has started all 14 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 21 rejections in his last eight contests. 

BACKCOURT TRIO SERVING AS IRONMEN FOR ROCKETS
      Junior G Rian Pearson (34.1 mpg), sophomore G Julius Brown (33.6 mpg) and senior G Dominique Buckley (32.6 mpg) rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively in the MAC in minutes per game. With the Rockets having just seven scholarship players on its active roster, freshman Josh Lemons is the only other guard in UT's rotation and is averaging 12.0 mpg. 
      UT has two transfers - junior G Justin Drummond-Loyola (MD) and junior F J.D. Weatherspoon (Ohio State) - and freshman F Aubrey Williams - sitting out this season. Junior C DeLino Dear and sophomore G AJ Mathew left the Rocket squad following the fall semester.

TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE
      Toledo has won nine of its last 11 home games (including six straight vs. MAC opponents) dating back to last season. The Rockets posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena last year 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.

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.

ON THE HORIZON
       Toledo will return to Savage Arena to host Akron (Jan. 23) and arch-rival Bowling Green (Jan. 26) before heading back out on the road for games at Ball State (Jan. 30) and Northern Illinois (Feb. 2).

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