Toledo Returns to Hardwood on Monday Evening at Minnesota - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

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Toledo Returns to Hardwood on Monday Evening at Minnesota

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QUICK HITTERS

• Toledo looks to rebound from Friday's season-opening loss at Loyola (IL) when it continues its three-game roadtrip with a matchup at Big Ten Conference foe Minnesota on Monday, Nov. 12. Tip-off time is set for 8:00 p.m. ET at Williams Arena.

• UT suffered a 62-50 setback to the Ramblers on Friday with sophomore G Julius Brown the only Rocket to score in double figures with 15 points. Following the contest against the Gophers, UT will conclude its seven-day roadtrip at Northern Iowa on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

• Toledo is the overwhelming favorite to win the Mid-American Conference's West Division after posting a 19-17 overall mark and 7-9 league ledger last year. The Rockets, who registered the second-largest turnaround in the nation last year with a +15-win improvement, return all five starters including preseason MAC West Division honorees Julius Brown and Rian Pearson.

• In terms of numbers, the Rockets welcome back 83.3 percent of their points, 82.0 percent of their rebounds and 89.5 percent of their assists from last season.

• The lone letterwinner not returning from last year's Rocket squad is junior G Curtis Dennis. A Bronx, NY native, Dennis (12.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) transferred to Iona for his senior campaign after earning honorable-mention All-MAC honors last year.

• UT has lost its last five season openers and has a 51-47 all-time record in season lidlifters. The Rockets' last season-opening victory was a 57-53 home triumph over Missouri State on Nov. 10, 2007.

• Minnesota is 42-1 in regular-season non-conference home games under Head Coach Tubby Smith. The Golden Gophers opened the 2012-13 campaign with a dominating 72-36 victory over American. Minnesota led 44-14 at the half and limited the Eagles to a miniscule 23.7 field-goal percentage thanks to a full-court press.

• UT holds an all-time record of 27-44 vs. Big Ten Conference foes with its last meeting coming with an 84-45 setback at No. 13 Illinois to open the 2010-11 season.

 

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 145-110 (.569) overall and 76-58 (.567) in conference play.

ROCKETS VS. THE BIG TEN

Toledo possesses an all-time mark of 27-44 vs. schools from the Big Ten Conference. UT has posted a win against each Big Ten school (except Nebraska) with its last victory over Michigan State, 81-76, on Dec. 30, 2002. The Rockets are 2-2 vs. Illinois, 1-4 vs. Indiana, 3-1 vs. Iowa, 8-13 vs. Michigan, 3-5 vs. Michigan State, 1-1 vs. Minnesota, 0-3 vs. Nebraska, 1-0 vs. Northwestern, 4-5 vs. Ohio State, 2-5 vs. Penn State, 1-3 vs. Purdue and 1-2 vs. Wisconsin.

 

RECAPPING THE ROCKETS' SEASON OPENER

Loyola (IL) jumped out to an early first-half lead and proceeded to turn away every Toledo comeback attempt in the Rockets' 62-50 loss to the Ramblers in Gentile Arena.

Sophomore G Julius Brown paced the Rockets offensively with 15 points (13 in the first half) with senior G Dominique Buckley and junior G Rian Pearson contributing nine and eight points, respectively. Pearson also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. It marked the first time in 46 games — a 59-41 loss to Akron on Feb. 5, 2011 — that only one Rocket scored in double figures.

Senior F Ben Averkamp led Loyola (IL) with 15 points and nine boards and helped the Ramblers compile a 42-30 rebounding advantage. That glass control led to a 17-4 cushion in second-chance points.

UT could never quite get untracked offensively with a 35.1 field-goal percentage. The Rockets limited the Ramblers to a 38.9 FG% but the hosts sank 14-of-15 (93.3%) free-throw attempts.

A key juncture in the game occurred when the Ramblers held Toledo to just one field goal during a 10-minute span midway through the second half. UT had cut the hosts' lead to 38-32 two minutes into the second stanza, but Loyola quickly regained a double-digit advantage.

 

PEARSON PRODUCES MAC PLAYER OF YEAR-CALIBER SEASON

Junior G Rian Pearson made his presence felt in his first season in the MAC last season, finishing third in the voting for MAC Player of the Year and earning first-team NABC All-District 14 and second-team All-MAC accolades. Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead 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 ranking tied 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 career-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.

Prior to transferring to Toledo, the Raytown, MO native averaged 6.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg in 16.5 mpg at Green Bay in the 2009-10 campaign. He came on strong at the end of the year, averaging 11.3 points and 4.9 boards over his last seven games.

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)...He ranked fifth nationally in rebounding among guards...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

Reigning 2011-12 MAC Freshman of the Year Julius Brown served as the quarterback of Toledo's high-powered offense last year and was the igniter for one of the MAC's top offenses. He dished out seven or more assists on 14 occasions (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) and also was named the MAC's Freshman of the Month for February. 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 scored in double figures in a season-high nine straight games during the month of February and averaged 14.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.0 rpg and a 46.2 3PTFG% (12-of-26) to earn MAC Freshman of the Month accolades.

 

FROM WAY DOWNTOWNSenior G Dominique Buckley topped the MAC with an 89.5 free-throw percentage last year 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 was named MAC West Player of the Week on Dec. 5 after scoring a career-high 21 points in back-to-back games vs. UNC-Wilmington and Chicago State. He also averaged 5.5 apg and 5.0 rpg with a 50.0 3PTFG% and 93.8 FT% and scored 18 second-half points in each contest.

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. 

SMITH AN INSIDE-OUTSIDE THREAT FOR ROCKETSJunior F Matt Smith, who ranked fifth on the team with 8.6 ppg and third with 4.1 rpg last year, ranked sixth in the MAC 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) and tallied 12 points and eight rebounds vs. Miami (Mar. 5) in the first round of the MAC Tournament.Smith tied for 10th in the MAC with a team-high 28 blocks (0.8 bpg) and shot a team-high 45.5% (20-of-44) from three-point range.

HOLLIDAY PROVIDES BOARDWORK & DEFENSE FOR ROCKETS

Junior F Reese Holliday averaged 7.1 ppg and ranked second on the team and 13th in the MAC with 5.8 rpg last year 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 years (Greg Stempin-Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2000).

ROCKETS DISPLAY IMPRESSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2011-12Toledo 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. 

Biggest win improvement from 2010-11 to 2011-12:1. USC-Upstate (5-25 to 21-12) 16

2. Toledo (4-28 to 19-17) 15 Indiana (12-20 to 27-8) 15

Manhattan (6-25 to 21-12) 15

Nevada (13-19 to 28-6) 15

6. Saint Louis (12-19 to 26-8) 14 

RECAPPING ROCKETS' POSTSEASON HISTORY

PERIMETER PROWESS BUOYED ROCKETS' SUCCESS DOWN STRETCH...

Junior G Curtis Dennis led the surge with 31 treys and a 46.3 mark (31-of-67), including five at Bowling Green (Feb. 11) and vs. Eastern Michigan (Mar. 3). Sophomore F Matt Smith (52.9%, 9-of-17), sophomore F Reese Holliday (47.6%, 10-of-21) and junior G Dominique Buckley (43.5%, 20-of-46) have also played key roles in UT's perimeter success.

....AS WAS DEFENDING THE THREE

Taking Advantage of CharityToledo topped the Mid-American Conference last year with an impressive 72.6 FT% and was even better in league play with a MAC-best 73.9 mark. UT's shooting mark was its highest since converting 74.6 percent in the 1995-96 season. The Rockets made 15.1 free throws per game compared to its opponents' total of 11.5 per contest. Dominique Buckley, who ended the season with 17 consecutive free throws, led the MAC at 89.5 percent (68-of-76).

KEYS FOR A ROCKET VICTORY IN 2011-12

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ROCKETS' CLOSE CALLSToledo registered a 4-7 win-loss mark last year in games decided by three points or less. Prior to last season, UT was involved in just seven contests (3-4 record) decided by three points or less in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns combined.

TOLEDO PRODUCES HOMECOURT TURNAROUNDToledo posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena last season 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. 

FOCUS ON LIMITING TURNOVERS

 Toledo committed 13.6 turnovers per contest last year (including a season-low five vs. Western Michigan on Feb. 25).

BREAKING THE CLASSES DOWNThe Rockets' roster for 2012-13 includes just one senior (Dominique Buckley). Toledo's junior class consists of DeLino Dear, James Ewing, Reese Holliday, Rian Pearson, Matt Smith and Richard Wonnell. UT has two sophomores - Julius Brown and AJ Mathew - on its roster as well as three freshmen - Nathan Boothe, Josh Lemons and Aubrey Williams.SENIORS: JUNIORS: SOPHOMORES: FRESHMEN:

ROCKETS ON TVToledo will have two of its contests televised on a regional basis this year. The Rockets will be featured on the MAC's television package on SportsTime Ohio twice, visiting defending MAC Tournament champion Ohio on Jan. 19 and hosting defending MAC regular-season champion Akron on Jan. 23. 

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEAToledo's 15-player roster originates from eight different states across the United States of America. This year's Rockets hail from Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas.