Toledo to Visit Miami Looking to Maintain Perch Atop MAC's West - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

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Toledo to Visit Miami Looking to Maintain Perch Atop MAC's West Division

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QUICK HITTERS

• Toledo (17-2, 5-1 MAC) looks to extend its five-game win streak on Wednesday, Jan. 29 when it visits MAC East Division foe Miami (8-9, 4-2 MAC) in Savage Arena. Tip-off time is set for 7:00 p.m with the contest the second of four straight matchups for UT against the MAC's East Division.

• The Rockets, who are ranked No. 3 in this week's collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, are coming off a come-from-behind 81-78 victory over Kent State Sunday evening in front of 5,611 fans inside Savage Arena. Miami has won a season-high three straight games, including a 70-65 road win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

• All five of Toledo's starters are averaging in double figures in the scoring column, led by senior guard Rian Pearson at 14.5 ppg. Pearson is sixth in the MAC in scoring and is joined in the league's Top 10 by junior guards Justin Drummond (14.5 ppg/7th) and Julius "Juice" Brown (14.2 ppg/10th).

• Brown also ranks eighth nationally with a MAC-best 6.5 assists per game. He also leads the league with a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio.

• Toledo brings the MAC's top offense into Sunday's game. UT leads the MAC in six offensive categories, including points per game (83.2), FG% (48.3) and 3PTFG% (35.5).

• Miami ranks second in the MAC with a 44.9 FG% but are 11th with a 28.5 3PTFG% and a minus-2.4 rebounding margin.

• RedHawk senior forward Will Felder appears in the MAC's Top 10 in scoring (15.1 ppg/4th), rebounding (7.2 rpg/7th) and FG% (55.2/6th).

• Senior guard Quinten Rollins tops Miami with a MAC-best 2.6 spg.

• Toledo is 7-0 this season in games decided by four points or less.

• The Rockets have made 30 more free throws (404) than their opponents have attempted (374). UT has a .732 free-throw percentage that is tied for second in the MAC.

 

BROWN'S BUZZER-BEATER DRAWS NATIONAL ATTENTION

Julius Brown's game-winning shot vs. Buffalo on Wednesday, Jan. 15 received national attention as it was ranked No. 7 on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays. In addtion, it was ranked the No. 1 play of the day by FoxSports Live as well as the Dan Patrick Show. For a link to the shot, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P65Z8KTN6H4&feature=youtu.be. Brown was honored for his play last week by earning the Lou Henson National Player of the Week from collegeinsider.com for the top mid-major player of the week. He averaged 22.5 ppg with a season-high 25 points at Akron and 20 points vs. the Bulls.

A 5-10 junior guard, Brown knocked down the game-winning jump shot from about 19 feet as the horn sounded to give Toledo a 67-65 victory over Buffalo. The play started under Toledo's own basket with 2.4 seconds remaining and the score tied. Senior F Matt Smith ran the baseline and hurled the ball downcourt to sophomore C Nathan Boothe, who promptly passed it to Brown. Brown elevated over a defender and unleashed the game-winner, and then celebrated on the court with jubilant Rocket fans.

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 in the 2011-12 campaign as UT registered 15 more wins than his first season at the Rocket helm. Last year, Kowalczyk guided Toledo to a 15-13 ledger as the Midnight Blue and Gold tied for first place in the MAC's West Division. He now has UT in position as one of the favorites to capture the league title and put the Rockets into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980.

When looking at his career record minus his first season at the helm at both Green Bay and Toledo, Coach Kowalczyk's record is 177-124 (.588) overall and 91-65 (.583) in conference play.

 

ROCKETS IN THE POLLS

Toledo is ranked No. 3 in the latest CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 Poll (Jan. 27). UT was ranked No. 2 the week of Dec. 30 for its highest ranking ever in the 15-year history of the poll. The Rockets received 684 points and are one of four MAC schools to appear in the poll with No. 14 Ohio (344) and No. 16 Akron (306). Kent State (22), Western Michigan (14), Buffalo (7) and Eastern Michigan (1) are also receiving votes.

UT also received five points in this week's ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Rockets had received votes in the national polls for five consecutive weeks until losing at Western Michigan on Jan. 8.

The Rockets are also a near-unanimous pick to win the MAC's West Division. UT received 24 first-place votes and 149 points in the conference's preseason poll, while Akron was tabbed as the East Division winner with 18 first-place votes and 143 points.

 

A ROCKET VICTORY OVER MIAMI WOULD...

• Improve UT's record to 18-2 and give Toledo a six-game winning streak.

• Improve the Rockets' conference record to 6-1 and give UT its best start in league play since winning its first seven contests in the 2006-07 MAC campaign.

• Keep Toledo in first place in the MAC's West Division. (UT is currently one game ahead of Western Michigan entering Wednesday'splay).

• Give Toledo its fourth straight victory over Miami for the first time since winning four in a row from Jan. 21, 1989-Feb. 24, 1990.

• Improve the Rockets' road record to 6-2 this season and give UT its second straight win in Millett Hall.

 

ROCKETS RANKING AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS

Toledo's impressive play in the 2013-14 campaign has been buoyed by a high-scoring offense that is tied for 12th nationally in the latest national rankings (through games played Sunday, Jan. 26) with 83.2 ppg. The Rockets also rank in the Top 25 in assist/turnover ratio (T-9th/1.59), fewest turnovers per game (13th/10.0), turnover margin (19th/+3.6), assists per game (24th/15.9) and field-goal percentage (25th/48.3).

 

CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER UNVEILED HONORING 2012-13 SQUAD

A championship banner was revealed prior to the MAC's home opener vs. Central Michigan honoring the 2012-13 Rocket squad tying for first place in the MAC's West Division. Toledo posted a 10-6 league record for its most MAC victories since posting a 14-2 mark en route to winning the 2006-07 MAC regular-season title.

 

TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE ...

Toledo has won 24 of its last 29 home games (including 14 of its last 17 vs. MAC opponents) dating back to 2011-12 and is 10-0 this season. UT posted an 11-8 ledger in Savage Arena in 2011-12 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 home record (.731) 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.

 

TOLEDO REGAINING HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE (PART II)...

Toledo's 11-game homecourt win streak is its longest since winning seven in a row from Dec. 8, 2007-Feb. 13, 2008. The last time the Rockets won 11 or more consecutive home contests was a 15-game unbeaten stretch from Jan. 26, 2006-Feb. 17, 2007.

During UT's current streak, the Rockets' average margin of victory is 15.0 ppg with just three games decided by less than nine points — a 71-67 win over Cleveland St. (Dec. 21), a 67-65 buzzer-beating victory over Buffalo (Jan. 15) and an 81-78 triumph over Kent State (Jan. 26).

The last time Toledo opened its season with more than seven straight home victories was when it won its initial eight contests of the 2006-07 campaign. That season, the Rockets posted a 10-1 home ledger and were 8-0 in conference home games en route to capturing the 2006-07 MAC regular-season title.

The last time UT won each of its first 11 home games was when it posted a perfect 14-0 ledger in the Field House its 1966-67 campaign.

 

... AND ROAD SUCCESS STARTING TO DEVELOP AS WELL

The Rockets have won seven of their last 10 road tilts dating back to the 2012-13 season. Toledo won four of its last five road contests last year with wins at Ball State, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan and its only loss at Buffalo. This year, the Rockets are 5-2 on the road.

UT's success on the road is a welcome departure from a four-year stretch (2007-11) that saw the Rockets win just one true road game out of 63 contests. Included during that period was a 47-game road losing streak that ended on Nov. 20, 2011 at Texas-Pan American.

 

CLEANING THE GLASS

Toledo is out-rebounding its opponents by a MAC-best 5.0 rpg and has been on the short end of the stick on the boards in just two games this season. The Rockets are on pace to grab more rebounds than their opponents for an entire season for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign when UT held a plus-0.5 advantage.

Toledo has five players averaging 4.3 rpg or better with junior F J.D. Weatherspoon setting the pace at 6.3 rpg. Also making key contributions on the glass are senior G Rian Pearson (5.2), junior G Justin Drummond (4.7), sophomore C Nathan Boothe (4.6) and freshman G Jordan Lauf (4.5).

Lauf and Pearson are tied for the team with 33 offensive boards, respectively, and have played a big role in helping UT average 12.7 offensive rpg this season, an increase of 2.7 rpg from a year ago.

 

SHARPSHOOTERS

Toledo leads the MAC with its 48.3 FG% and is tied for first with a 35.5 three-point FG%. The Rockets are also tied for second in the conference with their 73.2 free-throw percentage (behind Miami's 74.6%).

UT has paced the MAC at the charity stripe each of the last two seasons, posting a 72.6 mark in 2011-12 and ranking eighth nationally in 2012-13 with a 76.1 clip.

Freshman Jordan Lauf tops the Rockets with a 63.4 FG% (26-of-41) but doesn't qualify for the MAC rankings. Junior J.D. Weatherspoon ranks fourth in the league at 56.2% (77-of-137) with junior Justin Drummond (53.2%, 84-of-158), senior Rian Pearson (49.1%, 107-of-218) in 11th and 15th place, respectively.

Junior Julius Brown ranks second in the league with a career-high 88.6 free-throw percentage (70-of-78), while Drummond is 12th with a 76.0 mark (92-of-121). Boothe ranks second on the team with an 87.2 FT% (34-of-39) but doesn't qualify for the league rankings. (Note: Only players who have made 2.0 FTs/game qualify.)

 

SPREADING THE SCORING AROUND

Toledo has five players scoring in double digits with four of them ranking among the MAC's Top 30 scorers. Rian Pearson leads the way with 14.5 ppg (6th in MAC) followed by Justin Drummond (14.4/7th), Julius Brown (14.2/T-10th) and J.D. Weatherspoon (11.8/T-21st).

Each of the aforementioned quartet has paced the Rockets in scoring this season led by Brown, Drummond and Pearson on six occasions apiece. Weatherspoon and sophomore Nathan Boothe have led UT in scoring once.

 

COMPARING THE ROCKETS AT HOME ON THE ROAD

• Toledo is averaging 81.7 ppg with a 49.0 FG% and 36.7 3PTFG% at home and 84.9 ppg with a 47.5 FG% and 33.9 3PTFG% away from Savage Arena.

• The Rockets possess a 79.0 FT% on the road and a 68.4 FT% on its home floor.

• UT is averaging 9.3 turnovers/game on the road and 10.6 miscues/game at home.

• Rian Pearson leads Toledo in scoring at home with 15.9 ppg and a 51.7 FG%. He also has a 50.0 3PTFG% (12-of-24) at home but is 2-of-10 (.200) away from Savage Arena.

• Julius Brown is the Rockets' top scorer away from Savage Arena with 15.3 ppg and he also possesses a 90.2 FT% (37-of-41) on the road.

 

PEARSON LISTED ON LOU HENSON PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA TEAM

Rian Pearson is one of 25 student-athletes to be named to the Lou Henson Preseason All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com. The Lou Henson Award is presented annually to the top Mid-Major player in Division I college basketball.

A Raytown, MO native, Pearson has earned NABC All-District 14 as well as All-MAC honors the last two years. He has ranked among the MAC's top three scorers the last two seasons (1st in 2011-12/16.4 ppg & 3rd in 2012-13/17.9 ppg) and also appeared in the Top 10 in rebounding (3rd in 2012-13/8.3 rpg & 8th in 2012-13/6.8 rpg).

 

PEARSON SEEKING A THIRD ALL-MAC SELECTION

Senior G Rian Pearson is in his final season as a Rocket and looking to become a three-time All-MAC recipient. Pearson ranks sixth in the MAC with a team-high 14.5 ppg and tied his career high earlier this season with 30 points vs. Detroit (Dec. 4). He buried a career-high five three-point field goals (in five attempts) vs. the Titans and leads UT with a career-high 41.2 3PTFG% (14-of-34). He ranks fourth on the team with a career-best 49.1 FG% (107-of-218) and registered his 15th career double-double with 13 points and a season-high 13 rebounds at Western Michigan (Jan. 8). Pearson added his second double-double this season with 11 points and a team-hig eight boards vs. Kent State (Jan. 26).

Pearson has earned first-team NABC All-District 14 each of the last two years and was a first-team All-MAC honoree as a junior and second-team All-MAC selection as a sophomore. He ranked third in the MAC last year with 17.9 ppg to go along with a team-high 6.8 rpg (8th in MAC) and 1.7 spg (6th in MAC) and scored a career-high 30 points against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 28).

Pearson also registered four double-doubles in 2012-13 (15 career) — 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals vs. UIC (Dec. 29), 29 points, season-high 14 rebounds vs. EMU (Feb. 9), 18 points and 12 rebounds at CMU (Feb. 16) and 21 points and 11 rebounds vs. McNeese State (Feb. 23).

Pearson tied for the MAC scoring lead as a sophomore 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).

 

Running the Show

Junior G Julius Brown has emerged as the MAC's top point guard this season and ranks eighth nationally with 6.5 assists per game (as of Jan. 26) while posting an impressive MAC-best 2.5 assist/turnover ratio. He also ranks third on the team and 10th in the MAC with 14.2 ppg.

In conference contests, Brown is tied for first with 5.2 apg, tied for second with 2.5 three-point field goals per game, fifth with 16.8 ppg and ninth with a 40.5 three-point field-goal percentage.

Brown, who scored a season-high 25 points at Akron (Jan. 18), has seven career double-doubles after tallying a team-high 15 points and 12 assists vs. Central Michigan (Jan. 11). Earlier this season, he scored a game-high 23 points and dished out 10 assists in UT's win at Boston College (Nov. 14) and followed that up with 18 points and 11 helpers in a home victory over Florida A&M (Nov. 18).

Brown took over the reins of Toledo's high-powered offense right from the outset of his collegiate career in 2011 and has started every game as a Rocket. He has dished out seven or more assists on 36 occasions in his career (career-high 12 vs. EMU and CMU) and set a school record for most points scored (427) by a freshman in school history.

After capturing 2011-12 MAC Freshman of the Year honors, Brown followed that up by earning third-team All-MAC accolades as a sophomore. Brown ranked second in team scoring with 13.1 ppg (11th in MAC). He also led the Rockets with 6.0 apg (2nd in MAC) and is the first UT player to average over 5.0 apg since Keith Wade tallied 6.0 apg in the 1990-91 season.

The conference leader in league play with 6.9 assists per game and a sparkling 2.9 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).

 

BOOTHE PROVIDING POST PRESENCE

Sophomore C Nathan Boothe gives UT a solid offensive threat in the post and has the ability to go inside or outside. The 2012-13 All-MAC Freshman Team member is averaging 10.2 ppg and is fourth on the team with 4.6 rpg in 27.2 mpg. He also ranks second on the team with an 87.2 FT% (34-of-39) but doesn't qualify for the league rankings.

Boothe, who led UT with 15 points at Kansas (Dec. 30), scored a season-high 17 points at Boston College (Nov. 14) and grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds at Detroit (Nov. 23). Boothe has started all 43 games as a Rocket and averaged 8.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg as a freshman.

 

WHAT'S NEW FOR THE ROCKETS ON THE FLOOR

The Rockets gained the services of a pair of junior transfers, guard Justin Drummond from Loyola (MD) and forward J.D. Weatherspoon from Ohio State, for the 2013-14 season as well as the freshman trio of center Zach Garber, guard Jordan Lauf and guard Jonathan Williams and redshirt freshman forward Aubrey Williams.

Drummond and Weatherspoon each have started their first 19 games for Toledo. Drummond leads the team with 92 free throws and 121 free throws attempted and ranks second with 14.4 ppg and 2.5 apg. He registered his second career double-double vs. Northern Illinois (Jan. 22) with a UT-high 24 points and career-best 11 rebounds. He also has tallied 23 points vs. Florida Atlantic (Nov. 24) as well as 20 points at Boston College (Nov. 14).

Weatherspoon is averaging 11.8 ppg and is 12th in the MAC with a team-best 6.3 rpg. He has registered two double-doubles in his last five games with a career-high 20 points and 14 rebounds at Akron (Jan. 18) as well as 14 points and 11 rebounds vs. Central Michigan (Jan. 11).

J. Williams is the Rockets' top point producer off the bench with 6.8 ppg in 16.2 mpg and tied his season high with 15 points against Sam Houston State (Dec. 14).

Lauf is tied for the team lead with 33 offensive rebounds and is averaging 4.5 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 15.8 mpg. He scored a season-high 12 points vs. Central Michigan (Jan. 11) and grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds vs. Coppin State (Dec. 28).

Garber is playing 11.2 minutes per game and scoring 2.5 ppg and hauling down 2.3 rpg. He scored eight points and grabbed five boards vs. Kent State (Jan. 26).

 

 

ON THE HORIZON

Toledo remains on the road to face Ohio (14-5, 4-2 MAC) on Saturday, Feb. 1 (1:00 p.m.) on ESPNU before returning home to host arch-rival Bowling Green (9-10, 3-3 MAC) on Wednesday, Feb. 5 (7:00 p.m.) for its fourth-annual ‘Tie One On' game.