AKRON, OH - Sophomore G Rian Pearson scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds on Wednesday evening but his stellar performance wasn't enough to overcome Akron's red-hot shooting in Toledo's 86-72 defeat to the MAC East Division-leading Zips in Rhodes Arena.
Pearson's double-double was his sixth of the season and his performance came on the heels of being named the conference's West Division Player of the Week on Monday. The Rockets' leading scorer at 16.4 ppg also grabbed a game-high four steals and finished one rebound shy of his personal best in 36 minutes of action.
Freshman G Julius Brown also was in double figures for the Rockets with 12 points in addition to dishing out a team-high five assists.
Pearson also knocked down a career-high 11-of-12 free throws to help the Rockets enjoy an outstanding night at the charity stripe. UT shot 87.5 percent (14-of-16) and leads the conference with a 73.6 mark.
Toledo held its own against a taller Zip squad inside, outscoring Akron 46-42 in the paint and being outrebounded by just a 31-28 margin.
Akron (15-7, 7-1 MAC) shot 60.0 percent in the contest and utilized a balanced attack that saw five players score in double figures led by junior G Quincy Diggs' 16 points. Junior C Zeke Marshall registered a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while blocking five shots.
The Rockets (10-12, 2-6 MAC) never led in the contest but were on the verge of taking a lead in the second half when Pearson was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim following a put-back dunk. Pearson's follow-up jam brought UT within a point, 51-50, 13:33 to play.
Sophomore G Alex Abreu converted the ensuing free throws and followed with a layup to ignite a 13-2 burst that put Akron up 64-52 with 10:30 remaining. Senior G Brett McClanahan also knocked down back-to-back treys in the spurt. The closest the Rockets came the remainder of the game was within eight points.
The Zips led by as many as 14 points in the first half with their largest lead a 31-17 advantage 7:24 before halftime. UT battled back with 10 straight points to reduce its deficit to four, 31-27, at the four-minute mark, but the hosts regrouped and held a 43-34 cushion at intermission.
Toledo will play its next two contests at home against Buffalo on Saturday, Feb. 4 and Ohio on Wednesday, Feb. 8.