Rockets to Host Ball State in Saturday Matinee
- Toledo (13-12, 8-5 MAC) looks to bounce back from Wednesday's 65-62 home setback to Western Michigan when it hosts Ball State (12-14, 5-8 MAC) this afternoon. Tip-off time is set for 2:00 p.m. inside Savage Arena.
- The Rockets now trail the Broncos by a game in the West Division standings with three league contests remaining. The Cardinals have won four of their last five outings, including Wednesday's 95-90 home triumph over Central Michigan.
- UT will be looking to sweep the season series against Ball State for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign after posting an 85-78 victory in Muncie on Jan. 30. Junior G Rian Pearson paced the Rockets in that contest with junior F Matt Smith (19 pts.), junior F Reese Holliday (16 pts.) and sophomore G Julius Brown (13 pts.) also scoring in double figures.
- Toledo was outrebounded by Ball State in that contest by a 41-25 margin but was able to overcome that by shooting 51.7 percent and committing a season-low four turnovers.
- UT features two of the MAC's top scorers with junior G Rian Pearson pacing the league at 18.2 ppg and sophomore G Julius Brown in 10th place at 13.2 ppg. Pearson and Brown are the MAC's top scoring tandem at 31.4 ppg with Kent State's Chris Evans (16.9) and Randal Holt (14.3) ranked second at 31.2 ppg.
- Toledo has continued as the MAC's top free-throw shooting squad this season. UT paces the conference and is shooting a school-record 76.8 percent (and is seventh in the nation as of Feb. 28) after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark.
- Ball State senior G Jauwan Scaife ranks third in MAC scoring in league play with 19.4 ppg, including a career-high 34 points in the Cardinals' win over the Chippewas. Junior F Majok Majok is the only player in the MAC averaging a double-double with 11.0 ppg and a league-best 10.0 rpg.
UT'S 8-5 START TO MAC PLAY RANKS AMONG BEST IN LAST 20 YEARS
Toledo's eight wins in its first 13 league games matches the program's third-best start in the last 20 years. The Rockets' best record during this time frame is a 11-2 mark registered by the 2006-07 squad. Below are the top five ledgers for UT in the first 12 games of league play over the last 20 years.
1. 2006-07........................ 11-2 Finished 14-2 (1st in West)/19-13 overall
2. 2003-04........................ 10-3 Finished 12-6 (2nd in West)/20-11 overall
3. 2012-13..................... 8-5 Currently 2nd in West/13-12 overall
1997-98......................... 8-5 Finished 10-8 (4th in West)/15-12 overall
1998-99......................... 8-5 Finished 11-7 (1st in West)/19-9 overall
2004-05......................... 8-5 Finished 11-7 (T-1st in West/16-13 overall)
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 158-121 (.566) overall and 84-63 (.571) 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 seventh nationally (as of Feb. 28) at 76.8 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Davidson tops the nation with an amazing 81.2 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 11 of 25 contests, including a school-record 20-of-20 vs. Chicago State (Dec. 31). UT converted 26-of-27 free throws vs. Bowling Green (Jan. 26) 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
Freshman G Josh Lemons leads the Rockets with an 85.7 free-throw percentage but has made just 6-of-7 attempts. Junior F Matt Smith ranks second in the MAC with an 85.5 free-throw percentage (49-of-54) and is followed by junior F Reese Holliday (81.4-6th in MAC), senior G Dominique Buckley (81.0), sophomore G Julius Brown (75.3) and junior G Rian Pearson (75.0). 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 (138) and attempted (184) for a second straight season, ranking second in the MAC in FTs made behind CMU's Kyle Randall (145) and FT attempts behind Ball State's Majok Majok (185).
In UT's win over Bowling Green on Jan. 26, 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
Toledo has had several double-digit streaks at the free-throw line this season with freshman C Nathan Boothe and freshman G Josh Lemons possessing the longest current streak of four. Junior F Matt Smith and junior G Rian Pearson each had lengthy streaks end at the charity stripe at NIU (Feb. 2) with 22 and 18 straight makes, respectively. Sophomore G Julius Brown saw his streak of 22 straight free-throw conversions end vs. Bowling Green (Jan. 26). Former Rocket Nick Moore holds the school record with 29 in the 2000-01 season.
MORE FREE-THROW FACTS
- UT has a 76.6 FT% in MAC play with Matt Smith (88.9%, 24-of-27) leading the way. Also topping 75 percent are Reese Holliday (79.4%, 27-of-34) and Julius Brown (75.6%, 31-of-41).
- Toledo has a 79.6 FT% in Savage Arena with Reese Holliday leading the way at 85.7% (24-of-28). Matt Smith is at 84.0 percent (21-of-25), Rian Pearson is at 81.4% (70-of-86) and Julius Brown is at 78.8% (26-of-33).
- The Rockets are shooting 74.7% away from their homecourt with Buckley (18-of-20) and Smith (32-of-37) topping UT at 90.0 and 86.5 percent, respectively.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo concludes its season-long four-game homestand when it hosts Northern Illinois (March 5). Following the game, the Rockets will honor seniors Dominique Buckley and Brendon Schwiebert. UT will end its season at Eastern Michigan (March 9). Tip-off time for the season finale is Noon.