TOLEDO, OH - Toledo receives its final tuneup prior to opening Mid-American Conference play next weekend when it visits Tuscaloosa, AL to face Southeastern Conference foe Alabama on Monday, Jan. 3. Tip-off time from Coleman Coliseum is set for 7:00 p.m. CT.
UT is coming off a 64-42 setback at UNC Wilmington last Thursday, a defeat that snapped the Rockets' three-game winning streak.
Freshman G Reese Holliday topped Toledo offensively with 13 points with freshman C Delino Dear nearly notching his second-straight double-double with eight points and nine boards. Redshirt freshman F Hayden Humes shared team rebounding honors with Dear and helped the Rockets post a 35-34 advantage on the boards.
The Seahawks were red-hot from behind the three-point arc, knocking down 12 treys for a 38.7 three-point field-goal percentage. Toledo struggled from the field and was limited to a 37.5 shooting mark, including a season-low 12.5 percent (2-of-16) from three-point range.
Toledo scored the first seven points of the contest, but UNCW took control when the Rockets went ice cold for over 13 minutes. Sophomore G Malcolm Griffin registered the team's only field goal during this stretch as the Seahawks went on a 23-3 run. Toledo wasn't able to come within double digits the remainder of the evening as the hosts took a 33-16 advantage into intermission.
Griffin and Dear are leading the Rockets with 10.2 ppg with Holliday contributing 9.4 ppg. Redshirt freshman F Hayden Humes is Toledo's rebounding leader with 7.0 rpg.
Alabama is powered offensivey by junior F JaMychal Green (14.9 ppg) and sophomore F Tony Mitchell (14.1 ppg). Mitchell is leading the Crimson Tide with 7.8 rpg with Green grabbing 7.1 rpg.
Toledo is winless in two previous matchups against Alabama. The Rockets dropped a 76-69 decision on the road in the second round of the 2001 National Invitation Tournament before falling by 67-50 margin in Savage Arena last year.
HOLLIDAY EMERGING AS OFFENSIVE SPARK FOR ROCKETS
Freshman G Reese Holliday is becoming one of the Rockets' key contributors and is leading the team with a 53.2 field-goal percentage. Since scoring just two points in UT's first two contests, Holliday is averaging a team-best 11.2 ppg to go along with 6.6 rpg and a 55.2 FG% in the nine games he has played.
The Kansas City, KS native registered double-digit rebounding totals in three straight games, including double-doubles against Valparaiso (Dec. 11) and Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 18). Holliday is the first Rocket to register double-doubles in back-to-back games since Jerrah Young performed the feat vs. EMU and at CMU on Mar. 4 and Mar. 9, 2008. He also is the first UT player to record double-digit rebounds in three straight contests in over 10 years (Greg Stempin-Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2000).
PROVIDING A PRESENCE IN THE POST
Freshman C Delino Dear gives the Rockets an option down low and is tied for the team lead with 10.2 points and second with 5.9 rebounds per game and has played 26.1 minutes per contest.
The Chicago, IL native is leading the team with eight double-digit scoring outings and ranks second on the team with 54 free-throw attempts this season.
Dear registered his first career double-double with season highs in both points (19) and rebounds (10) against Indiana Northwest (Dec. 21) and is averaging 12.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg with a 52.6 FG% (30-of-57) in his last six contests.
GRIFFIN PUTTING ALL-AROUND TALENTS ON DISPLAY
Sophomore G Malcolm Griffin worked a great deal on his shooting stroke over the summer and that time in the gym is starting to pay off. After hitting just 1-of-13 from behind the arc last year, Griffin is shooting 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from three-point range and is tied for the team lead in with 10.2 ppg and leads the team with 3.6 apg and 1.3 spg.
The Chicago, IL native ranks second on the team with seven double-figure scoring contests and scored a career-high 18 points in back-to-back contests vs. Youngstown State (Nov. 24) and UIC (Nov. 28).
HUMES HAMMERING THE BOARDS
Redshirt freshman F Hayden Humes has been the Rockets' most effective rebounder and is leading the team and is tied for fourth in the MAC with 7.0 rebounds per game. The team leader with 31.1 mpg, Humes has led UT on the boards in a team-high six games this year and is scoring 6.8 points per game. He also has a team-high 84.6 free-throw percentage (33-of-39) that is fourth in the MAC and has knocked down 18 consecutive free throws.
A native of Valparaiso, IN, Humes has registered two double-doubles with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds vs. Valparaiso (Dec. 11) and with 12 points and 10 boards against UIC (Nov. 19). He sat out the 2009-10 season after suffering a torn ACL in September workouts.
WRIGHT CONNECTING FROM DOWNTOWN
Senior F Anthony Wright has been Toledo's primary threat from behind the three-point arc. Wright leads UT with 18 treys and possesses a 36.0 three-point field-goal percentage.
Wright knocked down 4-of-8 three-pointers against both UIC (Nov. 19) and Valparaiso (Dec. 11). He is averaging 6.7 points per game but has sat out two games and seen limited playing time in two other contests due to a foot injury.
The Sterling, VA native is in his first season with the Rockets' program after playing the last three years at the Univ. of Michigan.
THOMAS GETTING MORE COMFORTABLE AT POINT GUARD
After missing much of the Rockets' preseason, freshman G J.T. Thomas scored a season-high 16 points vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 18 and is averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 assists per game this year. He is also shooting 8-for-17 from behind the three-point arc in his last eight games.
A New Orleans, LA native, Thomas had sat out both exhibition contests as well as UT's first two games after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot on Oct. 19.
THREE-POINT ATTACK HEATING UP
After not shooting better than 33.3 percent from three-point range in any of its first five games of the season, Toledo has topped the 40.0 percent mark from three-point land in five of its last eight contests. The Rockets have posted a 36.2 3PTFG% during this stretch to move into third place in the MAC with a 33.7 mark. Buffalo ranks first in the league with a 38.5 3PFTFG%.
ROCKETS SHOWING SIGNS OF PROGRESS
Toledo has shown improvement in different areas since opening the season at No. 13 Illinois on Nov. 10. See below to see how the Rockets are progressing under first-year Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk:
- The Rockets are averaging 22.0 free-throw attempts per game (after averaging 13.8 last year) and have shot more free throws than their opponent in all but one game this season. UT's opponents are making 14.7 trips to the charity stripe per game.
- Toledo registered a season-high 21 free throws made vs. Rhode Island (Nov. 20) and a season-best 30 free-throw attempts vs. Valparaiso (Dec. 11) and Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 18).
- The Rockets' free throws made (179) are just 12 fewer than the number of its opponent free-throw attempts (191).
- Toledo committed a season-low 10 fouls against Florida Gulf Coast and has committed 53 fewer fouls than its opponents this season.
- Toledo committed a season-low eight turnovers vs. UIC on Nov. 28. The eight miscues were the Rockets' fewest since committing 10 against Bowling Green in a first-round MAC Tournament game on March 12, 2008.
- UT scored 70 or more points in three straight games (Dec. 11-21) for the first time since topping the mark in five straight contests at the end of the 2006-07 season. Toledo's 80 points vs. Indiana Northwest were its most since scoring 92 points vs. Akron in a 2009 MAC Quarterfinal contest.
- The Rockets' reserves have not been outscored by their opponents' bench in nine of the last 11 contests.
THREE TRANSFERS BODE WELL FOR ROCKETS' FUTURE
Toledo will have three significant parts of its future sitting on its bench and is putting just seven scholarship players on the court during the 2010-11 campaign. Dominique Buckley will have two years of eligibility remaining after transferring into the Rockets' program from Iowa State, while UW-Green Bay transfers Rian Pearson and Matt Smith will each have three seasons to play at UT.
A Romulus, MI native, Buckley played in 27 games last year for the Cyclones and averaged 1.4 points and 0.9 assists. He also shot 40.9 percent (9-of-22) from three-point range in 7.4 minutes per contest. Buckley enjoyed a standout prep career at Romulus High School where he was ranked as the 124th-best player in the country according to ESPN 150 rankings.
A Raytown, MO native, Pearson saw action in 32 contests for the Phoenix in the 2009-10 campaign and averaged 6.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game. He came on strong at the end of the year, averaging 11.3 points and 4.9 boards over his last seven games. Pearson's top performance came with a career-best 17 points vs. Indiana State on Feb. 20.
Smith started 34 of 35 games for UWGB last year, averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per contest. The Whitewright, TX native scored a career-high 13 points in 16 minutes against UW-Milwaukee on Feb. 6. Smith's other top outings came with nine points and six boards at Valparaiso on Jan. 2 and eight points and eight rebounds vs. Loyola (IL) on Dec. 3.
Senior F Anthony Wright, junior G Dominique Buckley, sophomore G Rian Pearson, sophomore F Matt Smith and freshman G J.T. Thomas will serve as the Rockets' captains for the 2010-11 campaign.
FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA
Toledo's 16-player roster originates from nine different states across the United States. This year's Rockets hail from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
BREAKING THE CLASSES DOWN
Justin Anyijong and Anthony Wright are the only seniors the Rockets have on their 2010-11 active roster. UT's junior class includes of walk-ons Drew Rodriguez (injured) and Jay Shunnar with the sophomores consisting of Malcolm Griffin and walk-on Kevin Rohner (injured). Toledo has seven players seeing their first collegiate action this season in redshirt Hayden Humes, three incoming recruits (Delino Dear, Reese Holliday and J.T. Thomas) and three walk-ons (Jess Chadwell, Zack Leahy and Richard Wonnell).
SENIORS: Justin Anyijong, Anthony Wright
JUNIORS: Drew Rodriguez, Jay Shunnar
SOPHOMORES: Malcolm Griffin, Kevin Rohner
FRESHMEN: Jess Chadwell, Delino Dear, Reese Holliday, Hayden Humes, Zack Leahy, J.T. Thomas, Richard Wonnell.
NOTE: Toledo has three transfers sitting out after transferring from NCAA Division I schools. Dominique Buckley (Iowa State) will have junior eligibility starting in the 2011-12 campaign, and Rian Pearson (UW-Green Bay) and Matt Smith (UW-Green Bay) will be sophomores next year.
HELP IS ON WAY FOR ROCKETS WITH TALENTED QUARTET OF NEWCOMERS
Toledo has a talented quartet joining its program for the 2011-12 campaign. Guards Julius "Juice" Brown (Markham, IL), Ryan Majerle (Belmont, MI), A.J. Mathew (Ypsilanti, MI) as well as forward Justin Moss (Romulus, MI) are expected to contribute right away for the Rockets next season.
"I am delighted and extremely excited that these four fine young men have decided to join our program," Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "They're all very good students and come from good families who understand the value of a college degree. In addition to that, the thing I'm probably most excited about is that they are all winners."
A 5-10, 165-pound point guard, Brown played a key role in helping Hillcrest (IL) High School capture its first Class 3A state title in school history last March. A starter since his freshman season, averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 assists per game as a junior as the Hawks posted a 31-3 win-loss mark.
A 6-4, 180-pound shooting guard, Majerle averaged 16.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his junior campaign to help lead Rockford (MI) High School to its third-straight Class A district title. A starter since his freshman season, he shot 85 percent from the free-throw line and 40 percent from three-point range to earn honorable mention all-state honors as well as a berth on the Grand Rapids Press Dream team.
A 6-3, 185-pound combo guard, Mathew has guided Ann Arbor (MI) Huron High School to a 59-13 win-loss ledger and an appearance in the 2010 Class A State title game since taking over as the team's point guard as a freshman. Mathew led the team with 15.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg and was second with 4.2 apg and 3.1 spg en route to receiving honorable-mention all-state and AnnArbor.com's Player of the Year accolades.
A 6-6, 240-pound power forward, Moss averaged 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season for Romulus High School, which finished 22-2 and was ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation by USA Today during his senior campaign. In the Eagles' 56-54 victory over #19 nationally ranked Detroit Country Day, Moss scored the winning basket with three seconds remaining.
CHALLENGING START TO THE SEASON
Toledo was the only team in the nation to open the 2010-11 campaign with games against Top-25 opponents. The Rockets dropped an 84-45 decision at No. 13/16 Illinois on Nov. 10 and suffered an 82-49 setback at No. 22 Temple on Nov. 14.
Playing a competitive non-conference schedule is one of Coach Kowalczyk's goals with the Rockets. During his eight-year tenure with the Phoenix, UWGB played a ranked opponent one out of every 15 games. Prior to his arrival, Green Bay faced just a ranked opponent one of every 40 contests.
A CHALLENGING START TO THE SEASON (PART II)
The combined record of Toledo's Division I non-conference opponents is an impressive 98-61 (.616) win-loss mark. The Rockets have played the 50th-most difficult schedule in the nation according to the Sagarin ratings (as of Dec. 31) and is one of three MAC schools (Miami - No. 15, Akron - No. 91) ranked in the Top 100 for strength of schedule.
ROCKETS CONTINUING TREND AS ONE OF MAC'S ATTENDANCE LEADERS
Toledo has ranked in the top two of the MAC in attendance four straight seasons and is currently second this year with 4,264 fans per game. The Rockets led the league with 5,751 fans per game in 2006-07 and totaled a conference-best average of 5,610 in 2008-09. UT averaged 3,953 fans in 2009-10 to finish second in the MAC.
SEARCHING FOR A ROAD WIN
The Rockets have lost 38 straight road contests as well as 54 of their last 55 road tilts dating back to the start of the 2007-08 campaign. UT's last road win was a 90-83 (OT) victory at Central Michigan on March 9, 2008.
Toledo's 63-62 loss at UIC on Nov. 28 was the Rockets' lone one-point setback during its current road losing streak that dates back to the start of the 2008-09 campaign. Only nine of its defeats during this stretch have been in single digits with two of those coming this season and five in the 2008-09 campaign.
Coach Kowalczyk posted a 16-14 (.533) win-loss mark at UW-Green Bay over his last two seasons with the Phoenix.
BRAND-NEW COACHING STAFF IN PLACE FOR ROCKETS
Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk has assembled a top-flight coaching staff to assist him on the Rocket bench. Kowalczyk brought Angres Thorpe and Jason Kalsow with him from UW-Green Bay, and Ryan Pedon joined the staff following five seasons at Miami (Ohio).
Thorpe and Kalsow helped Kowalczyk and the Phoenix to a pair of 22-win campaigns the last two years. The Phoenix posted a 22-13 win-loss mark (11-7 in Horizon League) and advanced to the second round of the College Basketball Invitational this past season. In 2008-09, Green Bay notched a 22-11 ledger and finished second in the conference with a 13-5 record en route to hosting the first post-season game in school history.
Prior to his arrival in Oxford, Pedon spent three years at Kent State where he served as the Golden Flashes' Director of Basketball Operations. Over the past eight years at Miami and KSU, Pedon was a part of six teams that made postseason appearances, including one NCAA Tournament, four National Invitational Tournaments and one College Basketball Invitational.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo will open its Mid-American Conference campaign at home vs. Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 8 before hitting the road for contests at Central Michigan on Wednesday, Jan. 12 and Northern Illinois on Saturday, Jan. 15.