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UT men pick up first victory of the year, fall short in championship game

Sports Reporter

Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 03:11

Rian Pierson

Vincent D. Scebbi / IC

UT men pick up first victory of the year, fall short in championship game

Reese Holiday

Vincent D. Scebbi / IC

Reese Holiday had 23 total points in last week’s Battle 4 Atlantis on the Mainland tournament in Fort Myers, Fla.


Toledo grabbed its first win of the season Nov. 21 defeating Samford 86-69 in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on the Mainland tournament. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they fell the next day to host Florida Gulf Coast University 72-66.

Sophomore guard Juice Brown led the Rockets with 25 points against the Bulldogs and tied his career high in rebounds with six. Junior guard Rian Pearson and senior guard Dominique Buckley also scored in double digits, finishing with 17 and 15 points, respectively.

Junior forward Reese Holliday finished with eight rebounds, along with Buckley. Thanks in large part to their efforts, UT finished with a dominating 44-28 advantage on the glass. 

Toledo was also impressive from the free-throw line, knocking down 31-of-40 attempts compared to Samford’s 10-of-17. Brown and Pearson played a big role in that department, combining to shoot 20-of-27 from the field.

The Rockets jump-started the second half with an 18-1 run, capped off with a three-pointer from Buckley with 15:26 remaining. 

“We played well in the second half but not very well in the first half,” said UT head coach Tod Kowalczyk. “We have to do a better job of coming together as a team.”

Samford later rallied with an 11-4 run that made it a two-point contest, 63-61, with 5:27 to play. UT quickly responded and took control with a 10-1 surge, including a Holliday triple with 3:52 remaining.

The Rockets’ foul trouble put them in a tough situation in the championship game Thursday as four Rockets finished with four fouls. UT’s foul trouble and poor second-half shooting helped the Eagles to a 72-66 victory over Toledo.

Despite an impressive 28-point performance from Pearson, as well as 12 points from Brown, Toledo’s fouls and lack of success on the glass led to their defeat.

UT finished with a 38-27 deficit on the boards. The Eagles took advantage of UT’s fouls, hitting 16-of-28 free-throws compared to just 9-of-10 for the Rockets. 

Senior Sherwood Brown led the Eagles with 22 points with sophomore Eric McKnight contributing 15, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

Toledo took control early with a 10-0 run resulting in an 18-6 advantage less than seven minutes in. UT finished the first half with a 37-27 cushion, as well as shooting a solid 53.6 FG percent.

The Rockets cooled off in the second half and shot just 36 percent. The Eagles took advantage of UT’s shooting woes and grabbed a 61-58 lead with less than five minutes left after a 12-2 run.

“I thought we got complacent at halftime,” Kowalczyk said. “I think we stopped moving the ball and we stopped defending.” 

Buckley and Brown hit back-to-back baskets three minutes later to bring UT within two, but FGCU answered each time to make it a two-possession game. The Eagles, who finished the second half shooting 60 percent from the field, eventually iced the game with a break-away layup, increasing their lead to six points in the final seconds of the game.

“Right now we don’t know how to win on the road,” Kowalczyk said. “We’re not talented enough and we’re not deep enough yet, but we will be.”

The Rockets will return to action Wednesday, Nov. 28 when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Savage arena.

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