Rockets trounce Wisconsin-Milwaukee for sixth straight winWritten by Nate Pentecost | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Dec. 18 the University of Toledo women’s basketball team watched a 16 point lead evaporate late in the second half at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, falling 60-57 to the Panthers.
Of course, last season Mid-American Conference Player of the Year candidate Naama Shafir was sidelined with a torn ACL and the Rockets did not have the benefit of playing at Savage Arena where they were 60-8 under head coach Tricia Cullop heading into Saturday’s showdown.
But with circumstances decidedly in their favor this weekend, Toledo (7-1) did not leave a shred of doubt, as healthy Shafir posted a game-high 19 points on her home court in an 83-59 drubbing of UWM.
“Losing that game last year really hurt,” Cullop said. “I was glad to see our team stay focused this time around.”
The senior point guard also added four steals while tying backcourt mate Andola Dortch with a contest-best six assists as the Rockets cruised to their sixth-straight victory.
Forward Inma Zanoguera was second on the team with 12 points and three steals and Lecretia Smith contributed 11 as starting center Yolanda Richardson struggled with foul trouble. Smith also tied Panthers Avyanna Young for a game-high eight rebounds.
A weekend after holding opponents to 31 percent (26-of-84) shooting in the Glass City Tournament, UT turned in another solid defensive performance, holding the Panthers to 34 percent (18-53) from the floor, grabbing 15 steals and forcing 24 turnovers.
“You always want to have active hands,” said Dortch, who accounted for two steals. “If you constantly move your hands around, I think eventually you’ll get the steal.”
The Rockets shot 46.2 percent (30-65) on the afternoon, turning the ball over just 11 times.
Toledo held the Panthers (4-5) leading scorer, guard/forward Ashley Green (14 ppg), to two points, after Green reeled off a career-high 33 in Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s 116-112 double-overtime win over Bradley Tuesday.
Angela Rodriguez led the Panthers with 13 points while Sami Tucker and Emily Decorah added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Ahead 6-5 early in the contest, the Rockets went on an 11-3 burst to create some space, building a 52-25 advantage by halftime.
The lead swelled to as many as 30 and dropped to as few as 15 in the second half. Cullop kept her starters in until the closing minutes, however, ensuring that the Rockets avoided another late-game collapse.
“I can’t complain about how we’re playing right now,” Dortch said. “We can always get better, but I love how we’re playing.”
UT heads to Milwaukee next where they will test their mettle against Big East foe Marquette Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. The Golden Eagles topped Toledo 69-60 at Savage last season.
“They have a very nice team,” Cullop said. “I was impressed with them when they came here last year. I think we’ll really need to stay focused and we’ll need more production off our bench because you never know what you’re going to see up there.”