UT women defeat Buffalo 59-44Written by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a rough-and-tumble game that featured a combined 42 turnovers, tipped or bobbled passes and bodies hitting the floor, the University of Toledo women’s basketball team was able to make more plays down the stretch to pick up their third-straight Mid-American Conference (MAC) win with a 59-44 victory over Buffalo in Savage Arena.
“It was a game [where] I don’t know how many times I saw a blocked shot, a tipped pass, a stolen ball,” Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop said. “I mean, it was just back-and-forth. It was hard to get in any kind of a rhythm on offense or defense just because it was a sporadic game, but it’s good to see us win a game like that where you’re constantly frustrated.”
UT (15-2, 3-1 MAC) was led in the contest by junior guard Andola Dortch, who had a game-high 20 points. Junior center Brianna Jones also finished in double figures in scoring for Toledo with 10 points.
Though UT’s leading scorer on the season in senior guard Naama Shafir scored six straight points to start the game, those remained her only points of the half as her team shot just 29.7 percent from the field in the game’s first 20 minutes. Shafir was held to eight points for the game.
“Anybody on our team is capable of scoring,” Dortch said. “It just depends on whose night it is.”
The Rockets’ Jan. 19 afternoon battle with Buffalo was indeed a physical one, especially in the first half.
The Bulls (5-12, 3-1 MAC) entered the contest as the conference’s leader in blocks, averaging 4.3 per game with 69 total on the season. Forty-two of the those Buffalo blocks have come at the hands of 6-foot-2-inch center/forward Christa Baccas, who displayed her MAC-leading shot-blocking ability in the first half by rejecting four of UT’s attempts from the field.
Toledo led by as many as 10 in the first half after a jumper from senior forward Lecretia Smith made it 19-9 at the 10:26 mark, but the Bulls chipped away at the Rockets’ lead down the stretch and capitalized on UT’s mistakes. Buffalo turned nine Toledo turnovers into 15 points.
“We had way too many turnovers against a team that did not press,” said Cullop, whose team finished the game with 17 turnovers. “We were a little bit lackadaisical in the first half.”
A scary moment occurred with under six minutes to go until halftime when the knee of Buffalo’s Rachael Gregory buckled as she was dribbling toward the basket, sending her to the floor writhing in pain.
The injury seemed to inspire the Bulls, who outscored Toledo 9-1 from that point to take their first lead of the game at the 1:33 mark after a pair of free throws from Mackenzie Loesing gave them a 26-25 lead. However, UT sophomore forward Inma Zanoguera countered with a three-pointer to send the Rockets into the locker room up 28-26.
“Gregory’s a kid that can go get boards, can drive, create some things for them, is a pretty good defender, so that definitely hurt [Buffalo],” Cullop said. “I hope for her sake it’s not a season-ending injury.”
Toledo outscored Buffalo 14-9 to start the second half, leading 42-35 at the 12:27 mark after a jumper from Zanoguera. The closest the Bulls made the game after that was when a layup from Baccas made it 44-39 with 8:32 remaining.
When Jones got fouled on a turnaround bank shot on the low block and cashed her free throw to complete the three-point play and make it 49-39 with 5:32 left, the Rockets led by double digits for the remainder of the contest as they picked up the 59-44 victory.
UT finished with a season-high 23 offensive rebounds and ended up with 22 points in the paint after getting just eight points in the paint in the first half.
“I think more tonight than execution I was coaching emotion of just [telling them to] ‘settle down and play,’” Cullop said. “I think in the first half even our coaching staff got a little caught up in that.
“It’s like we all needed to settle down and just let them play and take a deep breath because things weren’t going our way, but the worst thing we could do was make it worse.”
The Rockets will be back in action Jan. 23 when the team heads to Akron to take on the Zips (12-5, 3-1 MAC) at 7 p.m.