Year in Review: UT women build on WNIT championshipWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2010-11 UT women’s basketball team won the first postseason title in school history with a WNIT Championship.
“It was a great confidence builder to know that we can play with anyone and beat anyone,” Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop said.
The Rockets were undefeated at home, 22-7 overall and 14-2 in the Mid-American Conference last season including a 66-65 win at Bowling Green State University. Toledo ended the regular season with a win over Central Michigan to secure the MAC regular season title.
UT lost 51-46 to Eastern Michigan in the semifinals of the conference tournament, ending the team’s goal of making the NCAA Tournament. The Rockets accepted a bid to the WNIT for the second straight year and hosted Delaware in the opening round.
Despite 6-foot-5 forward Elena Della Donne scoring 31 points for Delaware, the Rockets advanced with a 58-55 victory, led by 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench from center Yolanda Richardson. Richardson led the Rockets again in the second round with 20 points and eight rebounds in a 67-52 win over Auburn. In the third round, UT beat Alabama 74-59.
The Rockets narrowly escaped the quarterfinals with a 71-68 win in overtime against Syracuse. Toledo cruised into the championship game with an 83-60 blowout of Charlotte as all five starters scored in double figures.
Naama Shafir dominated offensively in the title game with 40 points against USC in front of a MAC-record attendance of 7,301. The Trojans cut the lead to 70-66 with 36 seconds to go, but Shafir made six free throws down the stretch for a 76-68 win.
“It was an amazing performance,” Cullop said. “It is probably one of the most special individual performances I’ve seen.”
The performance earned Shafir Tournament MVP honors as she was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Richardson.
The experience the Rockets gained in the WNIT will be crucial to Toledo’s success this season with Shafir out for the year after tearing the ACL in her right knee Nov. 25 at Indiana. The Rockets are 3-3 since losing Shafir and 6-4 overall this season.
“You look at all these things through different lenses,” Cullop said. “It was a blow to lose Naama. Now that we’re in this situation, we have to do the best we can with it.”