Rockets lose in overtime to Syracuse in WNITWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a rematch of last season’s Elite Eight round of the WNIT, Toledo gave up a game-tying three with 2.4 seconds remaining and lost in overtime 74-73 on March 24 in Savage Arena. The Rockets also went to overtime in last season’s postseason win against Syracuse.
“It was like déjà vu, especially the fact it went into overtime,” UT head coach Tricia Cullop said. “It was such a great back-and-forth game and both teams were just giving everything they had. It was everything it was hyped up to be. Unfortunately we didn’t come out on the high end. I think Syracuse is a team that could win this thing and that’s what we want to see. If we can’t do it, we want the team that beat us to do it and we wish them the very best.”
The Rockets (24-10) had won nine consecutive postseason games, including their six in a row in 2011 on their way to the WNIT Championship. They were attempting to be the first team to win back-to-back WNIT Championships. It was also their first loss in 12 games this season when scoring 70 points or more.
“It was fun,” senior guard Courtney Ingersoll said. “I’m not going to be upset that we played our last game in front of all these fans. It’s a good way to go out if you have to lose.”
Toledo led by three with 16 seconds remaining before Syracuse guard Rachel Coffey hit a contested three with 2.4 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. The Rockets opted not to foul and send her to the line for two, counting on their defense to hold the lead against the Orange (22-14).
“I really didn’t think it was going to go in,” Cullop said. “It didn’t look like something that was going to go in at the time. I was surprised it went through the basket but it gave them new life.
“I trust our defense so much that I thought we were going to be okay [not fouling]. That’s something to have thought about, but I was just so worried about rebounding because they are so big and physical that when I was watching our free throw box outs we weren’t always getting the box outs.”
The Orange clinched the victory with a free throw with six seconds remaining in overtime, and sophomore point guard Andola Dortch hit a meaningless three at the buzzer to cut the loss to one.
Dortch led the Rockets with 23 points on 5-of-13 shooting with five assists, five rebounds and four steals. Junior center Yolanda Richardson (5 of 9) scored 10 points with five rebounds despite playing just 20 minutes from being in foul trouble all night.
Senior guard Haylie Linn (4 of 8) had 15 points and seven rebounds while classmate Ingersoll (2 of 10) scored eight in each of their final games. Ingersoll also tied the school and conference record for most three-point shots in a season with 96.
“I hate to see the careers end of our two seniors because they’ve worked so hard, but we wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for them,” Cullop said. “When all this sinks in and they have a chance to look back at it [they will see] they accomplished a lot in their careers. We always talk about leaving a legacy and those two certainly left a legacy in the end.”
The Rockets left a lot of points on the court, hitting just 10 of 31 shots from underneath the basket and making 24 of 41 free throws.
“Unfortunately we left so many shots out there that I wish would have fallen,” Cullop said. “We had some easy ones that the ball was not falling for us, from the free throw line and within 5 feet from the basket. We put those in and it’s a different story.”
“We shoot free throws every day, we just need to have the confidence to step up and shoot them,” Ingersoll said. “I think that’s definitely something in the offseason they are going to have to get in and shoot a lot of.”