High-Powered Rockets to Host Florida A&M on Monday Evening
• Toledo (2-0) looks to continue its red-hot start to the 2013-14 campaign when it hosts Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member Florida A&M (1-2) in Savage Arena on Monday, Nov. 18. Tip-off time for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m.
• The Rockets are averaging 98.5 points per game following Thursday’s 95-92 triumph at Boston College. UT’s victory was its second ever over an Atlantic Coast Conference school and evened its record vs. the ACC at 2-2. Toledo’s other win came over Wake Forest in 1960 with its losses to Duke in 2004 and Florida State in 2007.
• UT has won its first two games in a season for the first time in 10 years. The Rockets opened their 2003-04 campaign with five victories.
• All five of Toledo’s starters are averaging in double figures in the scoring column, led by junior G Julius Brown at 18.0 ppg. He is followed by junior G Justin Drummond (17.0 ppg), senior G Rian Pearson (14.0 ppg), junior F J.D. Weatherspoon (12.5 ppg) and sophomore C Nathan Boothe (12.5 ppg).
• Brown is also dishing out a team-high 9.0 apg and has committed just two turnovers in 58 minutes of action. He registered his fifth double-double of his Rocket career with 23 points and 10 assists in UT’s win over the Eagles.
• Toledo owns a plus-10.0 rebounding margin with Boothe topping UT with 6.5 rpg and Drummond at 6.0 rpg.
• Toledo is shooting a red-hot 60.0 percent from the field led by freshman C Zach Garber and Drummond with 71.4 and 70.6 marks, respectively.
• Florida A&M recorded its first win on Thursday with a 63-60 home victory over Stetson. The Rattlers opened the season with road losses to Rutgers (92-84) and Princeton (67-50).
• Senior G Jamie Adams paces FAMU with 13.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg with junior F Bobby King grabbing a team-best 7.3 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 in the 2011-12 campaign as UT registered 15 more wins than his first season at the Rocket helm. Last year, Kowalczyk guided Toledo to a 15-13 ledger as the Midnight Blue and Gold tied for first place in the MAC’s West Division. He now has UT in position as one of the favorites to capture the league title and put the Rockets into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980.
When looking at his career record minus his first season at the helm at both Green Bay and Toledo, Coach Kowalczyk’s record is 162-122 (.570) overall and 86-64 (.573) in conference play.
ROCKETS IN THE POLLS
Toledo moved up one spot to No. 22 in last week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll and will likely jump higher in the poll when the new rankings are released on Monday. The Rockets received 166 points and are one of five MAC schools to appear in the poll with Akron ranked No. 10 and Ohio (33), Western Michigan (15) and Kent State (13) receiving votes.
The Rockets are also a near-unanimous pick to win the MAC’s West Division. UT received 24 first-place votes and 149 points in the conference’s preseason poll, while Akron was tabbed as the East Division winner with 18 first-place votes and 143 points.
TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE ...
Toledo has won 15 of its last 20 home games (including 10 of its last 13 vs. MAC opponents) dating back to 2011-12 and was 8-4 last year. UT posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena in 2011-12 for its first winning home record since the 2007-08 campaign when it registered a 9-3 mark. After experiencing just one losing home campaigQQn (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.
... AND ROAD SUCCESS STARTING TO DEVELOP AS WELL
The Rockets have won three straight road tilts dating back to the 2012-13 season as well as five of their last six games as a visitor. Toledo won four of its last five road contests last year with wins at Ball State, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan and its only loss at Buffalo.
UT’s success on the road is a welcome departure from a four-year stretch (2007-11) that saw the Rockets win just one true road game out of 63 contests. Included during that period was a 47-game road losing streak that ended on Nov. 20, 2011 at Texas-Pan American.
PROTECTING THE BALL
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk places a high emphasis on keeping turnovers at a premium and that attention to detail played a big factor in UT’s 95-92 win at Boston College. The Rockets committed just six turnovers in the contest and are averaging 8.5 miscues per contest in their first two games.
Toledo committed 13.6 turnovers per contest in 2011-12 and an even more impressive total of 12.0 miscues per game in 2012-13.
Kowalczyk’s teams at Green Bay averaged fewer than 14.0 miscues per game in each of his last seven seasons at the Phoenix helm, including an impressive 11.7 in 2006-07 and 12.4 in 2009-10. The Rockets averaged 15.9 turnovers in 2010-11 (with just seven scholarship players on their active roster) and ranked last in the MAC with a minus-4.26 turnover margin.
Pearson LISTED ON LOU HENSON PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA TEAM
Rian Pearson is one of 25 student-athletes to be named to the Lou Henson Preseason All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com. The Lou Henson Award is presented annually to the top Mid-Major player in Division I college basketball. The award is named in honor of Lou Henson who retired after a spectacular coaching career that lasted 41 years.
A Raytown, MO native, Pearson has earned NABC All-District 14 as well as All-Mid-American Conference honors the last two seasons. He has ranked among the MAC’s top three scorers the last two years (1st in 2011-12/16.4 ppg & 3rd in 2012-13/17.9 ppg) and also appeared in the Top 10 in rebounding (3rd in 2012-13/8.3 rpg & 8th in 2012-13/6.8 rpg).
PEARSON SEEKING A THIRD ALL-MAC SELECTION
Senior G Rian Pearson is in his final season as a Rocket and looking to become a three-time All-MAC recipient. Pearson is averaging 14.0 ppg and a team-high 3.0 spg this season but saw his career-high 15-game streak of scoring in double digits end last Thursday with a nine-point effort at Boston College.
Pearson has earned first-team NABC All-District 14 each of the last two years and was a first-team All-MAC honoree as a junior and second-team All-MAC selection as a sophomore. He ranked third in the MAC last year with 17.9 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.8 rpg (8th in MAC) and 1.7 spg (6th in MAC) and scored a career-high 30 points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 28).
Pearson also registered four double-doubles in 2012-13 (14 career) — 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals vs. UIC (Dec. 29), 29 points, season-high 14 rebounds vs. EMU (Feb. 9), 18 points and 12 rebounds at CMU (Feb. 16) and 21 points and 11 rebounds vs. McNeese State (Feb. 23).
Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead as a sophomore 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 notched 12 20-point outings in 2011-12 and ranked second in the MAC with 10 double-doubles.
RUNNING THE SHOW
Junior G Julius Brown is off to a quick start this season and averaging a team-high 18.0 ppg, 9.0 apg and 3.0 spg. He scored a game-high 23 points and dished out 10 assists in UT’s win at Boston College (Nov. 14) to garner his fifth double-double.
Brown took over the reins of Toledo’s high-powered offense right from the outset of his collegiate career in 2011 and has started every game as a Rocket. He has dished out seven or more assists on 29 occasions in his career (career-high 12 vs. Eastern Michigan) and set a school record for most points scored (427) by a freshman in school history.
After capturing 2011-12 MAC Freshman of the Year honors, Brown followed that up by earning third-team All-MAC accolades as a sophomore. Brown ranked second in team scoring with 13.1 ppg (11th in MAC). He also led the Rockets with 6.0 apg (2nd in MAC) and is the first UT player to average over 5.0 apg since Keith Wade tallied 6.0 apg in the 1990-91 season.
The conference leader in league play with 6.9 assists per game and a sparkling 2.9 assist/turnover ratio, Brown was selected MAC West Division Player of Week the opening week of league play last year 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).
SMITH AN INSIDE-OUTSIDE THREAT FOR ROCKETS
Senior F Matt Smith, who ranked third on the team last year with 9.8 ppg and fourth with 3.6 rpg, topped the MAC last season with a 44.4 3PTFG% (36-of-81) and ranked third with an 83.1 FT% (59-of-71). He 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 a road win over Ball State (Jan. 30). Smith had a streak of 22 consecutive free throws end at NIU (Feb. 2). 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 in 2011-12 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 has come off the bench in UT’s first two games and is averaging 6.0 ppg and shooting a team-best 40.0 percent (2-of-5) from three-point range.
WHAT’S NEW FOR THE ROCKETS ON THE FLOOR
The Rockets gained the services of a pair of junior transfers, guard Justin Drummond from Loyola (MD) and forward J.D. Weatherspoon from Ohio State, for the 2013-14 season as well as the freshman trio of center Zach Garber, guard Jordan Lauf and guard Jonathan Williams and redshirt freshman forward Aubrey Williams.
Drummond and Weatherspoon each have started their first two games for Toledo. Drummond ranks second on the team with 17.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg, including a 20-point effort in last Thursday’s win at Boston College. Weatherspoon is averaging 12.5 ppg and 4.0 rpg and tallied a career-best 13 points and four rebounds in UT’s win over the Eagles.
J. Williams and Garber each reached double figures in their first collegiate contests and are averaging 8.5 and 7.5 ppg, respectively. Williams scored 15 points against Northwestern Ohio, while Garber contributed 11 points vs. the Racers. Lauf is averaging 3.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 apg and 1.0 spg.
WHAT’S NEW FOR THE ROCKETS ON THE BENCH
Toledo has two new faces on its bench for the 2013-14 campaign. Jason Kemp and Jordan Mincy joined the Rockets’ staff as assistant coaches following the departures of Angres Thorpe and Ryan Pedon to UMKC and Illinois, respectively. Kemp comes to UT following six years at North Dakota State, while Mincy spent one year at the College of Charleston prior to joining the Rockets. Mincy played four seasons at Kent State (2005-09) and also served as assistant coach for the Golden Flashes for two years (2010-12).
LEMONS LOOKING TO REDSHIRT
Sophomore G Josh Lemons has decided to sit out the 2013-14 campaign as a redshirt. A Cincinnati, OH native, Lemons appeared in 27 games as a freshman last year and averaged 1.0 ppg and 1.1 spg while playing 14.1 mpg.
Lemons scored a season-high four points at Minnesota (Nov. 12), Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 22) and at Ball State (Jan. 30) and dished out a season-high four assists with zero turnovers vs. UIC (Dec. 29).
AMONG NATION’S BEST AT TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHARITY
Toledo has led the MAC in free-throw shooting each of the last two years but posted just a 60.0 FT% in its season opener vs. Northwestern Ohio (Nov. 9). The Rockets rebounded from a 4-of-14 effort (28.6%) in the first half against the Racers with a 20-of-26 showing (76.9%) in the second stanza. UT continued that success from the charity stripe against Boston College (Nov. 14) with a 78.4 conversion rate (29-of-37).
UT ranked eighth nationally last year at 76.1 percent after registering a 72.6 mark in 2011-12. Davidson led the nation with an amazing 79.5 FT% with Kent State holding the conference record at 78.4 percent in the 1988-89 season.
The Rockets topped the 80 percent mark in 11 of 28 contests in 2012-13, 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.
BREAKING THE CLASSES DOWN
In terms of scholarships, the Rockets’ roster for 2013-14 includes just two seniors (Rian Pearson and Matt Smith). Toledo’s junior class consists of Julius Brown, Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon with UT’s sophomore class made up of the trio of Angel Aparicio, Nathan Boothe and Josh Lemons. Toledo’s freshman class is comprised of four individuals - redshirt Aubrey Williams as well as true freshmen Zach Garber, Jordan Lauf and Jonathan Williams freshman class.
SENIORS: Donald Beatty (walk-on), Rian Pearson, Matt Smith.
JUNIORS: Julius Brown, Justin Drummond, J.D. Weatherspoon.
SOPHOMORES: Angel Aparicio, Nathan Boothe, Josh Lemons.
FRESHMEN: Zach Garber, Jordan Lauf, Aubrey Williams, Jonathan Williams.
APARICIO SIDELINED WITH KNEE INJURY
Sophomore G Angel Aparicio will be out until at least January after undergoing knee surgery in August. A Benicarlo, Spain native, Aparicio joined Toledo’s program last January and was a member of Under 18, Under 16 and Under 14 Spanish National Teams.
ROCKETS ON TV
The Toledo men’s basketball program will have five of its Mid-American Conference games televised this season on Time Warner Sports Channel in addition to contests at Boston College and Kansas on ESPN3. In addition, the Rockets have the possibility of four more league games this year on TWC and ESPNU depending on wild-card selections determined 21 days prior to the game.
Toledo will have Time Warner cameras inside Savage Arena on five occasions, beginning with its first league home game against CMU on Jan. 11 (6:00 p.m.). The Rockets’ other dates will be against Kent St. on Jan. 26 (6:00 p.m.), Ohio on Feb. 12 (7:00 p.m.), Ball St. on Feb. 23 (6:00 p.m.) and WMU on March 1 (6:00 p.m.).
UT also has the possibility of four more games being televised as part of the conference television package at Akron on Saturday, Jan. 18, at Ohio on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Bowling Green on Thursday, Feb. 20 and vs. EMU on Friday-Saturday, March 7-8.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo makes a short trip up I-75 this weekend for three games in the 2K Sports Classic Subregional at Detroit’s Calihan Hall on Friday-Sunday, Nov. 22-24. The Rockets will face Stony Brook on Friday at 4:30 p.m., Detroit on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Florida Atlantic on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.