Toledo Heads to DeKalb for Saturday Matinee at Northern Illinois
- Toledo (8-10, 4-3 MAC) looks to extend its two-game win streak when it travels to DeKalb, IL for the second of two road tilts this week. The Rockets will battle Northern Illinois (5-14, 3-4 MAC) at 3:00 p.m. (CT) on Saturday, Feb. 2 in the Convocation Center after posting an 85-78 triumph at Ball State on Wednesday.
- The Rockets are in second place in the MAC's West Division and trail first-place Western Michigan (13-7, 5-2 MAC) by one game. The Huskies, who are 3-5 at home this season, have won two of their last three games - wins at Central Michigan on Jan. 23 (74-61) and vs. Kent State on Wednesday (67-65) - and trail UT by a game in the league standings.
- UT features two of the MAC's top scorers with junior G Rian Pearson pacing the league at 18.6 ppg and sophomore G Julius Brown in ninth place at 13.3 ppg.
- Pearson has been named the MAC West Division Player of the Week three times this season, while Brown was honored the first week of league action with his stellar play vs. Kent State and CMU.
- Toledo has continued as the MAC's top free-throw shooting squad this season. UT paces the conference at 79.0 percent (and ranks second in the nation as of Jan. 31) after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark.
- The Rockets, who hit 26-of-27 free throws in last Saturday's win over Bowling Green, possess an 89.7 FT% (52-of-58) in their last three games.
- Northern Illinois tops the MAC with 13.6 offensive rebounds per game but ranks last with in scoring (56.4), FG% (36.1) and 3PTFG% (27.5).
- Sophomore G/F Abdel Nader is the only Huskies' player scoring in double figures, averaging 14.2 ppg and a team-high 5.3 rpg.
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 153-119 (.563) overall and 80-61 (.567) in conference play.
AMONG NATION'S BEST AT TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHARITY
Toledo is the MAC's top free-throw shooting squad for a second-straight season. UT tops the conference and ranks second nationally (as of Jan. 31) at 79.0 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Davidson tops the nation with an amazing 80.2 FT% with Kent State holding the conference record at 78.4 percent in the 1988-89 season.
The Rockets have topped the 80 percent mark in nine of 18 contests, including a school-record 20-of-20 vs. Chicago State (Dec. 31). UT converted 26-of-27 free throws last Saturday vs. Bowling Green and had a streak of 28 straight free throw makes snapped (spanning three games) vs. Kent State (Jan. 9).
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 MAC with a 90.5 FT% (38-of-42) and is followed by senior G Dominique Buckley (89.7), freshman G Josh Lemons (85.7), junior F Reese Holliday (80.0-7th in MAC), sophomore G Julius Brown (78.5-10th in MAC) and junior G Rian Pearson (77.2-12th in MAC). Buckley and Lemons don't qualify for the league rankings due to not enough free throws made.
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 (95) and attempted (123) for a second straight season with Brown ranking second with 51 free throws and 65 attempts.
In last Saturday's win over Bowling Green, Pearson became the first Rocket to make at least 10 free throws in a game without a miss since Tyrone Kent at Xavier on Nov. 17, 2008.
STREAKING AT THE LINE
Junior G Rian Pearson and junior F Matt Smith each have lengthy streaks at the charity stripe with 18 and 17 straight makes, respectively. Former Rocket Nick Moore holds the school record with 29 in the 2000-01 season. Freshman G Julius Brown saw his streak of 22 straight free-throw conversions end vs. Bowling Green.
MORE FREE-THROW FACTS
- UT has an 83.9 FT% in MAC play with Smith (100.0%, 13-13), Buckley (91.7%, 11-12), Brown (89.5%, 17-19) and Pearson (83.8%, 31-37) each topping 80%.
- Toledo has an 84.8 FT% in Savage Arena with Smith a perfect 14-of-14 at home. Buckley has a 92.3 FT% (12-of-13) and Reese Holliday is at 90.0 percent (18-of-20).
- The Rockets are shooting 75.3% away from their homecourt with Buckley (14-of-16) and Smith (24-of-28) topping UT at 87.5 and 85.7 percent, respectively.
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 18.6 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.3 rpg (8th in MAC) and 1.7 spg (6th in MAC) and scored a career-high 30 points in UT's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 28). Pearson also has made 18 straight free throws to raise his season percentage to a career-high 77.2 percent, nearly 10 percentage points higher than last year's mark
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 (16.6 ppg/4th, 7.0 rpg/6th, 1.8 spg/4th)...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 13.3 ppg (9th in MAC). He is also leading the Rockets with 5.5 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 7.5 apg and a sparking 4.1 assist/turnover ratio, Brown was selected MAC West Division Player of Week the opening week of league play 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).
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 21 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 9.7 ppg and 3.5 rpg and possesses a team-high 44.0 3PTFG% (4th in MAC), scored a season-high 20 points at Cleveland State (Dec. 1). His second-best offensive output came with 19 points (including 5-of-6 three-point shooting) in Wednesday's win at Ball State. Smith leads the MAC with a 90.5 FT% (38-of-42) and has made 17 consecutive free throws. 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 2.6 treys per game and is tied for sixth with a 50.0 3PTFG% (18-of-36). Buckley, who scored 15 points in his 100th collegiate game at Kent State (Jan. 9), ranks second on the team with a 42.9 3PTFG% (36-of-84) and 89.7 FT% (26-of-29) and is fourth with 9.2 ppg. Buckley scored a season-high 20 points in last Saturday's win vs. BGSU, knocking down 4-of-6 three-point attempts and all eight of his free-throw 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 35.2 3PTFG% while scoring 8.5 ppg in 24.5 mpg this season. Holliday has tallied a season-high 16 points on three occasions - at Cleveland State (Dec. 1), vs. UIC (Dec. 29) and at Ball State (Jan. 30) - and possesses a career-high 80.0 FT% (44-of-55).
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 1.5 bpg and is also averaging 7.8 ppg and 5.3 rpg.
The Gurnee, IL native has started all 18 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), ranks fifth in conference play with 1.7 blocked shots per game and has blocked a shot in 11 of his last 12 contests.
BACKCOURT TRIO SERVING AS IRONMEN FOR ROCKETS
Sophomore G Julius Brown (34.1 mpg), junior G Rian Pearson (33.4 mpg), and senior G Dominique Buckley (32.4 mpg) rank third, fourth and seventh, 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 12.5 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 10 of its last 13 home games (including seven of its last eight 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.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo will return home to Savage Arena next week for a pair of home games. The Rockets will host Miami on Wednesday, Feb. 6 followed by Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 9. Both contests will tip off at 7:00 p.m.