STREAKING ROCKETS OVERWHELM BRONCOS
February 18, 2012 – The host Toledo Rockets fired a first-half 47-point offensive broadside at the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday afternoon and the result was a runaway 76-50 win for the Midnight Blue and Gold at Savage Arena.
For the second consecutive Saturday Toledo played a noon game on regional television, and for the second consecutive Saturday, over 5,000 fans came out to offer their verbal support to Tricia Cullop's charges, as they sought to capture their 10th consecutive conference victory.
But unlike the drama of the 52-50 last-minute win against rival Bowling Green seven days ago, the victory over Western Michigan was gift-wrapped and delivered long before the first half ended.
To be sure, it was a basketball game, but it was also an event to raise funds for the Susan G. Koman for the Cure of Northwest Ohio Foundation, and the color of choice on this day was pink. The fourth-annual “Rockets For The Cure” day brings out the best in generosity among the Toledo fan base, and this day would be no different; Raffle tickets for prizes were being drawn during each media timeout, and an auction would take place following the contest to give bidders a chance to go home with the pink jersey of their favorite Rocket player.
Toledo spotted Western Michigan the opening two points of the game before slamming the offensive pedal to the floor, resulting in UT's most prolific first-half point total of the season. But it wasn't just on the offensive end that the home team proved its mettle; Badgering the Broncos from every direction, the Rocket defenders recorded nine steals, forced 15 turnovers, and allowed WMU just five baskets in the opening period. The Ponies were just 5-of-24 for 21.8% before the break, and only an 8-of-10 performance at the free throw line saved them from a really embarrassing point total.
Courtney Ingersoll was the “wow factor” for Toledo in the first 20 minutes. The senior guard had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting (3-5 from long distance), recorded three assists, three steals, and a pair of rebounds. Twice in the span of just over a minute, Ingersoll picked the pocket of WMU's Jasmine Knowles, taking the ball to the hoop for baskets. Also playing a strong first half for Toledo were Andola Dortch (12 points) and Lecretia Smith (eight points).
The second half was much like the first stanza with Toledo extending its lead to 34 points, 68-34, on a Smith layup, but the cast of characters was changing as Cullop went deep into her bench to give the reserves some meaningful playing time. Unfortunately UT got stuck on 68 for about three minutes, allowing WMU to run off 10 points to close to 68-44, but this was just a small speed bump for the Rocket steamroller.
Freshman Stephanie Recker closed out the scoring for the game, hitting a jumper with just eight seconds remaining to give Toledo its 76-50 win, and perhaps a bit of revenge for a 70-67 road loss at the hands of this same Western Michigan team back on January 5.
After scoring those 15 points in the opening period, Ingersoll took and made just one shot (a three-pointer) after intermission, being content to pass off and play defense. In addition to her 18 points she finished with a game-high five assists and a game-high four steals. “Our momentum right now is really good,” said Ingersoll. “When we went up to Western for the first game of the MAC season they beat us and this was redemption. We wanted to make a statement that we were more prepared this time. The good thing about them being in the West [Division} is that we got a second chance, so we took that opportunity and it was fun.”
Dortch had yet another strong game, checking out with 17 points, two assists, and three steals.
Lecretia Smith is an excellent rebounder and defender, but recently she has picked up her game offensively. Against Western Michigan the junior from Ft. Wayne tallied 12 points on 3-of-3 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
Reserves Riley McCormick and Recker accounted for eight points a piece. Recker had 18 strong minutes on the court, getting four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Western Michigan got a strong offensive performance from sophomore Corie Buchanan who had a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds. Also finishing in double figures for the visitors was senior Maria Iaquaniello who had 12 points. After being shut out in the first half, Iaquaniello scored all of her points after the break.
For the game the Rocket defenders forced the Broncos into 23 turnovers and recorded 14 steals.
Saturday's Toledo win clinched a bye for UT into the quarter finals of the MAC Tournament. “It's good to get a bye,” said Ingeresoll “because it means extra rest and it's an advantage in that respect.”
“I'm very proud of our players today,” commented Cullop. “Obviously when we went up to Kalamazoo we didn't have the ending we would have liked. That three-point loss really stung and it's not the way we wanted to start the MAC season. But now during this present winning streak our players are really beginning to understand what it really takes to win. It was a great team effort today.”
Toledo must now travel up to Eastern Michigan to take on the Eagles this Tuesday in what is probably the most important game of the season for both teams. The two rivals are knotted a top the West Division with 11-2 records. The winner of this game will most probably get the all-important tournament double-bye, given to the two teams with the best conference records, regardless of the division they play in. “There's going to be a lot of hype,” said Ingersoll. “Eastern Michigan is playing extremely well right now and it's going to be a dog fight, but it's also going to be fun and a really great experience. I'm excited for the opportunity. If anyone on our team isn't pumped up for that game, then they don't have a pulse, but I'll take the responsibility to get them pumped up.”
The Rockets were a little thin at point guard for the Western Michigan game because reserve Janelle Reed-Lewis suffered a concussion against Central Michigan and did not dress.
After tanking a number of free throws in previous games the Toledo players responded on Saturday with a 24-of-30 performance at the foul line for an 80% afternoon.
Fans are flocking to Savage arena in record numbers to see the Toledo women play. In 14 games this season , a total of 55,390 fans have passed through the Savage Arena turnstiles on game day, for an average of attendance of 3,956 per contest.
Toledo's present 10-game winning streak since 2000-01 season when the Rockets reeled off 16 consecutive wins.
So Tuesday is the big game. Tricia Cullop would like nothing better than to come out from the locker room for the game in Ypsilanti and view a huge sea of blue and gold.