• Toledo (11-10, 7-3 MAC) looks to extend its longest league win streak in the last six years when it travels to the ‘Empire State' to battle Mid-American Conference East Division foe Buffalo (9-15, 4-6 MAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 13 in Alumni Arena. Tip-off time is set for 7:00 p.m.
• The Rockets have won five straight league contests and are tied for first place in the MAC's West Division with Western Michigan (15-8, 7-3 MAC). The Bulls, who are in a three-way tie for third place in the East, posted a 59-54 home victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday and have a five-game win streak against UT.
• UT features two of the MAC's top scorers with junior G Rian Pearson pacing the league at 18.6 ppg and sophomore G Julius Brown in ninth place at 13.5 ppg. Pearson and Brown are the MAC's top scoring tandem at 32.1 ppg with Bowling Green's A'uston Calhoun (15.7) and Jordon Crawford (15.5) ranking second at 31.2 ppg.
• Toledo has continued as the MAC's top free-throw shooting squad this season. UT paces the conference at 77.8 percent (and is tied for third in the nation as of Feb. 10) after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark.
• UT is the only school to feature four players among the MAC's Top 25 scorers in league games. Pearson is averaging 18.0 ppg (3rd) followed by Brown (13.4-14th), senior G Dominique Buckley (11.1/18th) and junior F Matt Smith (10.2/23rd).
• Wednesday's game will pit the MAC's top two three-point shooters with UB sophomore F Will Regan (42.3) and Matt Smith (41.8) topping the league.
• Buffalo ranks third in the MAC with 43.3 FG% and plus-4.2 rebounding margin but is last in the league with a -4.4 turnover margin.
• Junior F Javon McCrea, who leads Buffalo with 17.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg and 1.1 spg, ranks second, third and fourth in the MAC in blocks, points and rebounds, respectively.
UT'S 7-3 START TO MAC PLAY RANKS AMONG BEST IN LAST 20 YEARS
Toledo's seven wins in its first 10 league games equals the program's third-best start in the last 20 years. The Rockets' best record during this time frame is an 8-1 mark registered by the 2006-07 squad. Below are the top five ledgers for UT in the first 10 games of league play over the last 20 years.
1. 2006-07....................... 8-2 Finished 14-2 (1st in West)/19-13 overall
2003-04....................... 8-2 Finished 12-6 (2nd in West)/20-11 overall
3. 2012-13.................... 7-3 Currently T-1st in West/11-10 overall
1997-98....................... 7-3 Finished 10-8 (4th in West)/15-12 overall
1998-99....................... 7-3 Finished 11-7 (1st in West)/19-9 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 156-119 (.567) overall and 83-61 (.576) in conference play.
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 is tied for third nationally (as of Feb. 10) at 77.8 percent after leading the league last year with a 72.6 mark. Davidson tops the nation with an amazing 81.0 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 nine of 21 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
Junior F Matt Smith leads the MAC with a 90.4 free-throw percentage (47-of-52). He is followed by freshman G Josh Lemons (85.7), senior G Dominique Buckley (80.6), junior F Reese Holliday (80.3-7th in MAC), sophomore G Julius Brown (77.9-11th in MAC) and junior G Rian Pearson (75.2-15th in MAC). 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 (118) and attempted (157) for a second straight season, ranking second in the MAC in FTs made behind CMU's Kyle Randall (122) and tied for first in FT attempts with Ball State's Majok Majok.
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
Junior G Rian Pearson has the Rockets' longest active streak at the free-throw line with 10 straight conversions after missing three of his first nine attempts last Saturday vs. EMU. Pearson and junior F Matt Smith 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 79.2 FT% in MAC play with Matt Smith (95.7%, 22-of-23), and Julius Brown (83.9%, 26-of-31) each topping 80 percent.
• Toledo has an 84.1 FT% in Savage Arena with Smith a perfect 17-of-17 at home. Reese Holliday is at 86.4 percent (19-of-22) and Rian Pearson is at 81.8% (63-of-77).
• The Rockets are shooting 75.6% away from their homecourt with Buckley (16-of-18) and Smith (30-of-25) topping UT at 88.9 and 85.7 percent, respectively.
Pearson ENJOYING ANOTHER STELLAR SEASON IN MIDNIGHT BLUE AND GOLD UNIFORM
After making his presence felt immediately in his first season in the MAC last season, junior G Rian Pearson has followed that up with even more spectacular play. Pearson finished third in the voting for MAC Player of the Year a year ago and also earned first-team NABC All-District 14 and second-team All-MAC accolades. He is leading the MAC with 18.6 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.6 rpg (8th in MAC) and 1.9 spg (5th in MAC) and scored a career-high 30 points in UT's win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 28). Pearson has scored in double digits in 19 of 20 games and also has eight of the Rockets' 15 20-point outings this season.
Pearson also has registered two double-doubles this season (12 career) — 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals vs. UIC (Dec. 29) and 29 points, season-high 14 rebounds vs. EMU (Feb. 9).
Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead last year 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 tallied a season-best 29 points, 12 rebounds and four steals at Akron (Feb. 1) and registered an impressive 18-point, career-high 17-rebound effort against Ohio (Feb. 8). He notched 12 20-point outings, ranked second in the MAC with 10 double-doubles with three of those coming in his last six contests.
MORE RIAN RUMBLINGS
Rian Pearson was the only player to rank in the MAC's Top 10 in points (16.4 ppg/T-1st), rebounds (8.3 rpg/3rd) and steals (1.6 spg/T-6th) last year and is doing so again this season...Pearson is joined this year by Kent State's Chris Evans (16.8 ppg/4th, 7.0 rpg/6th, 1.9 spg/4th)...Pearson ranked fifth nationally in rebounding among guards last year...Pearson led the Rockets in rebounding a team-high 28 times (including 16 straight games from Jan. 18-Mar. 7), scoring on a team-best 17 occasions and steals 12 times.
Running the Show
After capturing MAC Freshman of the Year honors last year, Julius Brown ranks second on the team this year with 13.5 ppg (10th in MAC). He is also leading the Rockets with 5.6 apg (3rd in MAC) and scored a season-high 25 points in UT's 82-69 win over Samford (Nov. 21).
The conference leader in league play with 7.2 assists per game and a sparkling 3.3 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).
Brown took over the reins of Toledo's high-powered offense right from the start last year and has started every game of his collegiate career. He has dished out seven or more assists on 23 occasions in his career (career-high 11 vs. McNeese State to go along with 15 pts.) and set a school record for most points scored (427) by a freshman in school history.
Brown was named the MAC West Division Player of the Week twice (Feb. 20, Feb. 27). He ranked sixth nationally among freshman in assists and ranked in the MAC's Top 16 in assists (4th/4.9 apg), assist/turnover ratio (6th/1.6) and points (16th/11.9 ppg).
The Markham, IL native tied his career high with 29 points and tied a school record for a MAC game as well with a 90.9 FG% (10-of-11) in UT's 72-67 win over Central Michigan (Feb. 22). Brown's previous best occurred when he tallied a career-high 29 points with a career-best seven treys at Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 22).
SMITH AN INSIDE-OUTSIDE THREAT FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Matt Smith, who ranks third on the team with 9.6 ppg and fourth with 3.4 rpg, leads the MAC with a 90.4 FT% (47-of-52) and is second with a 41.8 3PTFG% and 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) and has made 26 of his last 27 attempts from the charity stripe. 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 last year 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).
FROM WAY DOWNTOWN
Senior G Dominique Buckley is one of the MAC's top long-distance shooters and ranks third in league play with 2.5 treys per game and eighth with a 43.1 3PTFG% (25-of-58). Buckley, who scored 15 points in his 100th collegiate game at Kent State (Jan. 9), ranks second on the team with a 40.6 3PTFG% (43-of-106) and 80.6 FT% (29-of-36) and fourth with 9.3 ppg. Buckley scored a season-high 20 points vs. BGSU (Jan. 26), knocking down 4-of-6 three-point attempts and all eight of his free-throw attempts.
In 2011-12, Buckley topped the MAC with an 89.5 free-throw percentage and also knocked down a team-high 1.7 treys per game (T-12th in MAC) and ranked second with a 41.9 3PTFG% (6th in MAC). He also was second on the team with 2.9 apg (15th in MAC), a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio and fourth with 9.7 ppg.
A Romulus, MI native, Buckley played in 27 games in 2009-10 for Iowa State before transferring to Toledo. He averaged 1.4 ppg and 0.9 apg for the Cyclones with a 40.9 3PTFG% (9-of-22) in 7.4 mpg. Buckley enjoyed a standout prep career at Romulus H.S. where he was ranked as the nation's 124th-best player according to ESPN 150 rankings.
HOLLIDAY PROVIDES SPARK OFF BENCH FOR ROCKETS
Junior F Reese Holliday has given the Rockets consistent play off the bench and is third on the team with 4.8 rpg, 33.3 3PTFG% and 80.3 FT% while scoring 7.7 ppg in 23.5 mpg this season. Holliday has tallied a season-high 16 points on three occasions — at Cleveland State (Dec. 1), vs. UIC (Dec. 29) and at Ball State (Jan. 30) — and possesses a career-high 80.3 FT% (49-of-61).
Last year, Holliday ranked second on the team and 13th in the MAC with 5.8 rpg while also receiving the assignment of guarding the opposition's top scorer. He also tied for eighth in the MAC with 4.1 defensive rpg and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds vs. Youngstown State (Dec. 17). Holliday provided a significant impact for the Rockets in the MAC Tournament, averaging 9.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg with a 57.1 3FG% (4-of-7) in three contests.
In 2010-11, Holliday topped the league's freshmen and sophomores and ranked eighth overall in the MAC in his rookie campaign with 6.6 rpg. He also led the league with 2.83 offensive rpg. He also was the first Rocket to record double-digit rebound totals in three straight contests in over 10 year (Greg Stempin-Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2000).
BOOTHE BRINGING IT IN THE POST
Freshman C Nathan Boothe has made an immediate impact in the pivot for the Rockets in his freshman campaign and sank a game-winning trey at the buzzer in last Wednesday's 65-64 win over Miami. He is sixth in the MAC with a team-high 1.5 bpg and is also averaging 7.8 ppg and 5.2 rpg.
The Gurnee, IL native has started all 21 games for UT and scored a season-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting at Cleveland State (Dec. 1). Boothe, who also tallied 13 points and seven boards at Big Ten power Minnesota (Nov. 12), is tied for fifth in conference play with 1.6 blocked shots per game with WMU's Shayne Whittington and has blocked a shot in 14 of his last 15 contests.
BACKCOURT TRIO SERVING AS IRONMEN FOR ROCKETS
Sophomore G Julius Brown (34.2 mpg), junior G Rian Pearson (33.8 mpg), and senior G Dominique Buckley (32.2 mpg) rank third, fourth and seventh, respectively in the MAC in minutes per game. With the Rockets having just seven scholarship players on its active roster, freshman Josh Lemons is the only other guard in UT's rotation and is averaging 13.2 mpg.
UT has two transfers - junior G Justin Drummond-Loyola (MD) and junior F J.D. Weatherspoon (Ohio State) - and freshman F Aubrey Williams - sitting out this season. Junior C DeLino Dear and sophomore G AJ Mathew left the Rocket squad following the fall semester.
TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE
Toledo has won 12 of its last 15 home games (including nine of its last 10 vs. MAC opponents) dating back to last season and is 6-2 this year. UT posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena last year 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.
THIRD-ANNUAL TIE ONE ON GAME HELD ON JAN. 26
The Toledo men's basketball program held its third-annual ‘Tie One On' event on Saturday, Jan. 26 vs. Bowling Green and a season-high 6,361 fans poured into Savage Arena. All proceeds from the event benefited the University of Toledo's Dana Cancer Center in support of prostate cancer care.
Head coach Tod Kowalczyk and his coaching staff sported a bow tie during the game, while Falcon Head Coach Louis Orr and his coaching staff wore orange bow ties as a show of support.
ROCKETS DISPLAYED IMPRESSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2011-12
Toledo produced one of the top turnarounds in college basketball last season with its 15-win improvement from a 4-28 win-loss mark in 2010-11. Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk and his coaching staff inherited a program that had endured three straight losing seasons (11-19 in 2007-08, 7-25 in 2008-09 and 4-28 in 2009-10) after capturing the 2006-07 MAC regular-season title.
Kowalczyk also achieved significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 at UW-Green Bay, going from 10-20 his first season to 17-11 his second year.
RECAPPING ROCKETS' POSTSEASON HISTORY
Toledo made its first appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last year for its first postseason berth since playing in the 2007 National Invitation Tournament. The Rockets have made appearances in four NCAA and six NIT Tournaments during its 97-year history. The Rockets' four NCAA berths came in 1954, 1967, 1979 and 1980, while UT's seven NIT berths came in 1942, 1943, 1981, 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2007.
Zach Garber, Jordan Lauf and Jonathan Williams to Join Men's Hoops Program in 2013-14
Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk announced in the early signing period the addition of three student-athletes — 6-9, 225-pound F/C Zach Garber (Carey, OH), 6-5, 190-pound G Jordan Lauf (Napoleon, OH) and 6-3, 180-pound G Jonathan Williams (Southfield, MI) to the Rockets' program for the 2013-14 campaign.
Garber averaged 19.7 ppg and 12.4 rpg en route to earning second-team Division IV all-state honors as a junior at Vanlue High School. He shot 62 percent from the field, 76 percent from the free-throw line and blocked 57 shots in helping the Wildcats tie for third place (7-2) in the Blanchard Valley Conference and finish 17-4 overall.
A second-team Division II all-state selection, Lauf led Napoleon to the Northern Lakes League title as a junior with a 13-1 league mark and an 18-4 overall ledger. He averaged a league-best 21.9 ppg, ranked second with 9.8 rpg and also dished out 2.8 apg. A standout wide receiver, Lauf has caught 28 passes for 674 yards this fall for an impressive 24.1 ypc and scored 14 touchdowns for a Wildcat squad (11-1-1) that advanced to the Division III regional finals.
A first-team Class A all-state honoree as a junior at Southfield-Lathrup High School, Williams displayed his explosiveness on the offensive end with 28.4 ppg in addition to averaging 6.0 rpg and 5.0 apg.
ON THE HORIZON
Toledo returns to the road to face Central Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 16 before returning to Savage Arena to begin a season-long four-game homestand. UT will face McNeese State (Feb. 23), Western Michigan (Feb. 27), Ball State (Mar. 2) and Northern Illinois (Mar. 5) before ending their season at Eastern Michigan (Mar. 8/9).