Rockets roll to victory over Indiana-Northwest

1/3/2012
BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
University of Toledo forward Reese Holliday (32) steals the ball from Indiana University-Northwest forward Baile Barnett (2) Tuesday, at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
University of Toledo forward Reese Holliday (32) steals the ball from Indiana University-Northwest forward Baile Barnett (2) Tuesday, at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.

The University of Toledo men's basketball team's 107-43 win over Indiana University-Northwest Tuesday was just what the doctor ordered.

After losing three in a row and five of their last six, the Rockets claimed an easy win that gave all 10 players who saw action an opportunity to score. What's more, UT surpassed the 100-point plateau for the first time in 14 years and posted the program's largest margin of victory in 70 seasons.

"This game was good for a lot of reasons," Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "We had one goal: we didn't want to play down to the level of competition. I thought, from start to finish, we played with focus and discipline."

Matt Smith and Julius Brown both finished with career highs of 21 and 20 points, respectively, to lead the Rockets (8-6). Rian Pearson posted a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Dominique Buckley added 15 points.

Justin Latimore had 17 points to lead Indiana-Northwest, an NAIA school located in Gary, Ind.

"It was a confidence game for us -- it was a good game for us heading into conference play," Pearson said.

The Rockets blasted off to an early 18-3 lead and never were threatened, eventually taking a 66-24 lead at halftime. The stats for the half were as one-sided as the score would indicate, as Toledo made 23-of-35 shots from the field (65.7 percent) while allowing the RedHawks to make just 9-of-26 (34.6 percent).

The most impressive number for the Rockets was the efficiency of their first-half offense, as UT scored on 31-of-36 possessions.

"We moved the ball well," Kowalczyk said about his team's first-half offense. "We made the extra pass, and we only had four turnovers."

What little doubt as to the outcome existed at halftime, it was erased by a UT defense that held Indiana-Northwest scoreless for the first 6:43 of the second period. By the time the RedHawks' Sam Bellamy broke the drought with a free throw, the Rockets had scored 17 more points and led by 59.

Toledo's largest margin was 66, and the 64-point final margin was the fifth-largest in school history.

One bonus of the lopsided score was that the Rockets used the bench extensively, with Genoa native Richard Wonnell collecting eight points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes, all career highs.

"We got Richard Wonnell and A.J. Mathew quality minutes," Kowalczyk said. "Those are two guys who are going to be factors at some point this season."

One player who did not play for the Rockets was DeLino Dear, who had played all 13 previous games and started three times.

"I'm sending a strong message," Kowalczyk said. "He needs to understand what it means to be a Rocket, and right now he doesn't understand it."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.