CHARLESTON, IL – Toledo led from start to finish on Saturday evening to post its first road win of the season with a 67-59 victory at Eastern Illinois.
"We did some good things defensively tonight and it was a nice road win for us," Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "I don't think we played nearly as well as we did in our last two games at Cleveland State or Detroit, and a game like this shows us that we have areas we still need to work on."
Junior G Rian Pearson led a Rocket attack which saw four players score in double figures with 22 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Senior G Dominique Buckley tallied 13 points and four assists, while junior F Matt Smith and sophomore G Julius Brown scored 10 points apiece. Brown also dished out a team-high five assists.
"Rian did a great job of attacking on the offensive end and also had a strong game defending their shooters," Kowalczyk said.
Freshman G Alex Austin topped the Panthers with 21 points with sophomore F Josh Piper contributed 17 points.
The Rockets shot a season-high 59.1 percent, including a scorching 64.0 percent in the second half, and limited the Panthers to a 36.0 shooting mark.
Toledo started strong and opened a 16-7 advantage just over six minutes into the game. Austin and Piper then combined to hit four straight treys to make it two-point contest, 23-21, 4:22 before the half. UT held the Panthers scoreless the rest of the way to take a 26-21 lead into the intermission.
The Rockets posted a 52.6 FG% in the opening half but were hampered by eight first-half turnovers. EIU was ice cold in the first stanza, shooting 25.0% but converted 35.7 percent (5-of-14) of its three-point attempts.
UT looked ready to put the game away early in the second stanza when Pearson converted a three-point play at the 15:42 mark to give the Rockets a 38-25 advantage. Toledo maintained a sizable cushion until Austin's three-point bomb pulled the Panthers within 56-51 with 5:52 remaining.
Toledo came up with key baskets down the stretch though as Buckley and Brown both hit shots as the shot clock was expiring. Pearson put the final nail in the coffin with a baseline jumper for a 65-59 lead with 51 ticks left.
"We wanted to score at the end of the shot clock late in the game and I thought we really executed our offense well down the stretch," Kowalczyk said.
Toledo will now take a break for finals before returning to action on Tuesday, Dec. 18 for an exhibition contest vs. Siena Heights. Tip-off time from Savage Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.