Undefeated Toledo Hosts Cleveland State on Saturday; $6 Bleacher Tickets Available
• Toledo (10-0) looks to remain among the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday, Dec. 21 when it hosts Horizon League foe Cleveland State (6-5) in Savage Arena. Tip-off time is set for 2:00 p.m. Entering Friday’s action, the Rockets were one of 12 schools in the nation yet to be saddled with a loss.
• With one more victory, UT would register its best start to a season since its 1966-67 squad opened with 14 consecutive wins en route to a 23-2 mark. The second-best opening to a season by a Rocket squad was 12 victories in the 1940-41 campaign.
• Toledo also needs one more win to equal the best start by a Mid-American Conference program since Ball State posted an 11-0 mark in 1988-89.
• All five of Toledo’s starters are averaging in double figures in the scoring column, led by senior G Rian Pearson at 16.6 ppg. He is followed by junior G Justin Drummond (15.5 ppg), junior G Julius Brown (13.9 ppg), junior F J.D. Weatherspoon (10.6 ppg) and sophomore C Nathan Boothe (10.4 ppg).
• Pearson ranks third in the MAC in scoring and has ranked among the league’s top three scorers in each of his three seasons as a Rocket.
• Brown ranks seventh nationally with 7.1 apg and has a MAC-best 2.5 assist/turnover ratio. He has registered two double-doubles this season with 23 points and 10 assists at Boston College and 18 points and 11 assists vs. Florida A&M.
• Toledo is 4-0 this season in games decided by four points or less.
• The Rockets have made 52 more free throws (231) than their opponents have attempted (179). UT has a .738 free-throw percentage and is tied for fourth nationally with Kentucky at 23.1 free throws made per game.
• Sophomore G Bryn Forbes paces Cleveland State offensively with 18.6 ppg and a 47.7 3PTFG% and ranks fourth in the Horizon League in each category.
• The Vikings have faced three Mid-American Conference schools, defeating Ball State (78-55) and falling at home to Akron (73-61) and on the road at Eastern Michigan (81-69).
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 170-122 (.582) overall and 86-64 (.573) in conference play.
ROCKETS IN THE POLLS
Toledo is ranked No. 5 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll (Dec. 9) for its highest ranking ever in the 15-year history of the poll. The Rockets received 622 points and are one of four MAC schools to appear in the poll with No. 14 Akron (334), No. 16 Kent State (282) and No. 18 Ohio (242) also ranked. Eastern Michigan (23) is also receiving votes.
UT also is beginning to receive some attention in the national polls and received three votes in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.
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.
ROCKETS RANKING AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS
Toledo’s red-hot start to the 2013-14 campaign has been buoyed by a high-scoring offense that is seventh and eighth in the nation (through games played Thursday, Dec. 19) with 87.9 ppg and a 51.3 FG%, respectively. The Rockets also rank ninth with an impressive 1.67 assist/turnover ratio.
A ROCKET VICTORY OVER CLEVELAND STATE WOULD...
• Give UT its third-best start to a season in school history and be the Rockets’ best since the 1966-67 squad opened with a school-record 14 consecutive victories.
• Extend the Rockets’ winning streak dating back to the 2012-13 campaign to 13, marking the fourth-longest in school history. The Rockets’ longest win streak is 17 from Feb. 19, 1940 - Jan. 25, 1941. UT also won 16 in a row from Feb. 14, 1947 - Dec. 30, 1948 and 14 straight from Dec. 3, 1966 - Feb. 1, 1967.
• Improve UT’s home record to 5-0 and extend the Rockets’ homecourt win streak to six games.
• Snap a four-game losing streak in its series vs. Cleveland State. Toledo’s last win over the
Vikings was a 75-50 victory on Dec. 23, 1996.
TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE ...
Toledo has won 18 of its last 23 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 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.
... AND ROAD SUCCESS STARTING TO DEVELOP AS WELL
The Rockets have won six straight road tilts dating back to the 2012-13 season as well as eight of their last nine 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 has played a big factor in UT’s red-hot start to the 2013-14 campaign. The Rockets lead the MAC with just 9.8 miscues per contest, just ahead of Kent State’s total of 9.9 tpg.
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.
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.
A Raytown, MO native, Pearson has earned NABC All-District 14 as well as All-MAC honors the last two years. He has ranked among the MAC’s top three scorers the last two seasons (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 ranks third in the MAC with a team-high 16.6 ppg and tied his career high earlier this season with 30 points vs. Detroit (Dec. 4). He buried a career-high five three-point field goals (in five attempts) vs. the Titans and is tied for sixth in the MAC with a team-high 1.7 spg and tied for eighth with a team-best 55.2 FG% (64-of-116).
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).
Running the Show
Junior G Julius Brown is off to a strong start this season and ranks seventh nationally with 7.1 assists per game while leading the MAC with a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio. He also ranks third on the team and 11th in the MAC with 13.9 ppg.
Brown scored a game-high 23 points and dished out 10 assists in UT’s win at Boston College (Nov. 14) and followed that up with 18 points and 11 helpers in a home victory over Florida A&M (Nov. 18). He now has six double-doubles in his career.
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 32 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 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 SERVING AS THREE-POINT SPECIALIST FOR ROCKETS
Senior F Matt Smith ranks eighth in the MAC with a 47.8 (11-of-23) three-point field-goal percentage. He is averaging 5.3 ppg and 1.7 rpg with an 83.3 FT% (10-of-12) in 10 games off the bench this season.
Smith, who ranked third on the team last year with 9.8 ppg and fourth with 3.6 rpg, topped the MAC in his junior 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).
BOOTHE PROVIDING POST PRESENCE
Sophomore C Nathan Boothe gives UT a solid offensive threat in the post and has the ability to go inside or outside. The 2012-13 All-MAC Freshman Team member is averaging 10.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg in 26.8 mpg.
Boothe scored a season-high 17 points at Boston College (Nov. 14) and grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds at Detroit (Nov. 23). Boothe has started all 38 games as a Rocket and averaged 8.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg as a freshman.
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 10 games for Toledo. Drummond leads the team with a 58.1 FG% and ranks second with 15.5 ppg, 2.7 apg and tied for third with a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio and 4.6 rpg. He tallied a season-high 23 points vs. Florida Atlantic (Nov. 24) as well as 20 points at Boston College (Nov. 14).
Weatherspoon is averaging 10.6 ppg and ranks 15th in the MAC with a team-best 5.5 rpg. He tallied a career-best 16 points and team-high seven rebounds in UT’s win over Sam Houston State on Dec. 14.
J. Williams is the Rockets’ top point producer off the bench with 8.1 ppg in 16.7 mpg and tied his season high with 15 points against Sam Houston State (Dec. 14). Lauf leads the team lead with 16 offensive rebounds and is averaging 4.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 0.8 apg in 16.4 mpg. Garber is playing 12.4 minutes per game and scoring 3.1 ppg and grabbing 1.8 rpg.
LEMONS TAKING A REDSHIRT SEASON
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.
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.
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 will have one more home game vs. Coppin State (4-5) on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 2:00 p.m. before closing out its non-conference schedule at national power Kansas (7-3) on Monday, Dec. 30.