Pearson's Double-Double Puts Toledo into First-Place Tie in West; UT Downs EMU, 60-52
TOLEDO, OH - Toledo (11-10, 7-3 MAC) moved into a first-place tie in the Mid-American Conference's West Division on Saturday evening after grinding out a 60-52 victory over visiting Eastern Michigan (11-12, 4-5 MAC) in Savage Arena. The victory was the Rockets' fifth straight league triumph, marking UT's longest MAC win streak since opening the 2006-07 conference campaign with seven straight victories.
Junior G Rian Pearson came off the bench for the first time this season and produced one of the best outings of his career with 29 points (one shy of his career high) and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes. Senior G Dominique Buckley joined Pearson in double figures with 13 points, including a pair of critical treys after EMU had climbed to within 45-43 with four minutes to play.
Sophomore G Julius Brown played another solid all-around floor game, dishing out eight assists and tying his career high with four steals in 36 minutes.
Junior G Daylen Harrison registered a double-double for the Eagles with 19 points and 10 boards, while junior C Da'Shonte Riley tallied six points, 13 boards and four blocks.
Toledo struggled to find its shooting touch against the Eagles' stifling 2-3 zone defense, finishing the game with a MAC season-low 34.6 shooting mark. The Rockets made up for it though by limiting the Eagles to a MAC opponent-worst 33.9 FG% and 19 turnovers, matching the most by an opponent this season.
UT also shot an uncharacteristic 64.5 percent from the charity stripe but was able to get to the line 20 more times than EMU which made 8-of-11 free throws.
The Rockets took the lead for good, 21-20, on Pearson's layup with 3:44 remaining in the opening stanza. UT tried to pull away from the Eagles on several occasions in the second half and took its largest lead of the game, 45-37, following Brown's two free throws with 4:55 to play. Harrison and freshman G Jalen Ross answered with back-to-back treys though to make it a two-point contest, 45-43, forcing Toledo to call timeout with 3:59 left.
Buckley followed by hitting corner threes on UT's next two possessions, and the Rockets closed out the win by hitting seven of their last eight foul shots.
Toledo returns to action on Wednesday, Feb. 13 when it travels to Buffalo, NY to meet MAC East Division foe Buffalo (9-15, 4-6 MAC).