Toledo to Entertain MAC East Co-Leader Akron on Wednesday Evening
- Toledo (6-9, 2-2 MAC) looks to bounce back from a pair of road defeats when it hosts Mid-American Conference East Division co-leader Akron (13-4, 4-0 MAC) on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Tip-off time for the contest, which is being televised live on SportsTime Ohio and ESPN3, is set for 7:00 p.m.
- The Rockets are in a four-way tie for the West Division lead with Western Michigan (10-7, 2-2 MAC), Central Michigan (9-8, 2-2 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (9-9, 2-2 MAC). The Zips, who have won nine in a row as well as their last 14 matchups against West Division members, share the East Division lead with Ohio (13-5, 4-0 MAC).
- UT has played the fewest home contests (four) of any MAC school and has played 11 of its 15 games this season on the road.
- Toledo features the MAC's top scorer with junior G Rian Pearson leading the league at 18.7 ppg. Sophomore G Julius Brown also appears in the Top 10 and is in ninth place with his 13.5 scoring mark.
- Pearson has been named the MAC West Division Player of the Week three times this season, while Brown was honored last week 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 ranks sixth in the nation as of Jan. 21) after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark.
- Akron features a balanced attack led by senior C Zeke Marshall's 12.6 ppg with junior C Demetrius Treadwell and junior F Nick Harney each averaging 10.4 ppg. Marshall became the MAC's all-time leader in blocked shots on Saturday and now has 304 career rejections.
- The Zips lead the conference with 75.8 ppg, plus-12.8 scoring margin, 38.6 FG% defense, 6.0 bpg and rank second with their 46.1 FG%, 15.1 apg and plus-5.9 rebounding margin.
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 151-118 (.561) overall and 78-60 (.565) 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 sixth nationally (as of Jan. 21) at 76.9 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Davidson tops the nation with an amazing 79.9 FT% with Central Michigan (72.2-2nd), Western Michigan (71.6-3rd), Bowling Green (70.9-4th), Kent State (70.6-5th) and Ohio (70.2-6th) 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 (83.3-7th in MAC), sophomore G Julius Brown (80.0-8th in MAC), freshman G Josh Lemons (80.0) and junior G Rian Pearson (73.3).
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 (77) and attempted (105) for a second straight season with Brown ranking second with 48 free throws and 60 attempts.
STREAKING AT THE LINE
Freshman G Julius Brown has converted his last 22 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 80.0 percent and is seven shy of former Rocket Nick Moore's record of 29 in the 2000-01 season.
Junior F Matt Smith has the Rockets' next best streak at the charity stripe with nine consecutive conversions.
ROCKETS VS. AKRON IN 2011-12
Rian Pearson scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds but his stellar performance wasn't enough to overcome Akron's red-hot shooting in Toledo's 86-72 defeat to the MAC East Division-leading Zips. The Rockets' leading scorer also grabbed a game-high four steals and finished one rebound shy of his personal best in 36 minutes of action. Julius Brown also was in double figures for the Rockets with 12 points in addition to dishing out a team-high five assists. Toledo held its own against a taller Zip squad inside, outscoring Akron 46-42 in the paint and being outrebounded by just a 31-28 margin. Akron shot 60.0 percent and utilized a balanced attack that saw five players score in double figures led by former Zip Quincy Diggs' 16 points.
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 18.7 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.2 rpg and 1.8 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 (17.2 ppg/2nd, 7.7 rpg/3rd, 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 13.5 ppg (9th in MAC). He is also leading the Rockets with 5.1 apg (3rd in MAC) and scored a season-high 25 points in UT's 82-69 win over Samford (Nov. 21).
The conference leader in league play with 7.8 apg and a 5.2 A/TO ratio, Brown was selected MAC West Division Player of Week last week after he averaged 14.0 ppg, 9.5 apg and 6.5 rpg in UT's wins at Kent State (Jan. 9) and vs. CMU (Jan. 12). He is also grabbing a team-best 4.5 defensive rpg in league play.
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 9.4 ppg and 3.2 rpg and ranks second on the team with a 41.5 3PTFG% (7th in MAC), scored a season-high 20 points at Cleveland State (Dec. 1). His second-best offensive output came with a team-high 16 points in Saturday's loss at Ohio. After missing his first seven three-point field-goal attempts this season, Smith has connected on 17 of his last 34 (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 is one of the MAC's top long-distance shooters and leads the conference in league play with 3.0 treys per game and is eighth with a 52.2 3PTFG% (12-of-23). Buckley, who scored 15 points in his 100th collegiate game at Kent State (Jan. 9), leads the Rockets with a 42.3 3PTFG% (30-of-71) and is fourth with 8.8 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 5.1 rpg and a 37.0 3PTFG% while scoring 8.1 ppg in 24.9 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 83.3 FT% (35-of-42).
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 8.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
The Gurnee, IL native has started all 15 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 Big Ten power Minnesota (Nov. 12), is tied for fourth in conference play with Akron's Zeke Marshall with 2.3 blocked shots per game and has blocked a shot in nine straight contests.
BACKCOURT TRIO SERVING AS IRONMEN FOR ROCKETS
Junior G Rian Pearson (34.1 mpg), sophomore G Julius Brown (34.0 mpg) and senior G Dominique Buckley (32.6 mpg) rank third, fourth and sixth, 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.
THIRD-ANNUAL TIE ONE ON GAME SET FOR SATURDAY
The Toledo men's basketball program will hold its third-annual 'Tie One On' event on Saturday, Jan. 26 vs. Bowling Green. All proceeds from the event will benefit the University of Toledo's Dana Cancer Center in support of prostate cancer care.
Head coach Tod Kowalczyk and his coaching staff will be sporting a bow tie during the game with Falcon Head Coach Louis Orr and his coaching staff wearing orange bow ties as a show of support. Rocket fans are invited to join the fun, too. For $100, individuals will receive a ticket to the game, a UT Basketball bow tie and a commemorative photo by signing up at give2ut.utoledo.edu/tieoneonreg.asp.
A new feature will be added for this year's game with the Rockets donning retro jerseys that will be auctioned off prior to the contest. Individuals can bid on the uniforms until Thursday, Jan. 24 with bidding starting at $100.00 and increasing in $25.00 increments at utoledo.edu/tieoneon/. The winning bidder will have their name placed on the back of the jersey and receive it after the game.
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.
ROCKET SCHOLAR-BALLERS to BE HONORED AT HALFTIME
Toledo will honor its Scholar-Ballers from the last academic year at halftime of Wednesday's game vs. Akron. To earn Scholar-Baller honors, a student-athlete must maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 and possess academic and athletic progress. The Scholar-Baller movement begin in 1995 and its founder, Dr. C. Keith Harrison, coined the term and piloted the program with Jean Boyd at Arizona State University in 2001. The University of Toledo joined the Scholar-Baller family in October of 2007.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo will host arch-rival Bowling Green on Saturday, Jan. 26 for its third-annual 'Tie One On' contest. The Rockets will then head back out on the road for games at Ball State (Jan. 30) and Northern Illinois (Feb. 2).