UT improves to 19-2 with 65-54 win over WMUWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While it was sloppy in the early going, the Rockets flexed their collective muscles down the stretch against Western Michigan as four Toledo players scored in double figures to help UT defeat the visiting Broncos 65-54.
“We talked a lot at halftime about just connecting on our layups,” Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop said. “I thought we were a little sloppy the first half offensively. The second half, I thought we did a much better job of coming out with a little bit more intensity.”
Junior guard Andola Dortch led the Rockets’ offensive attack with a game-high 18 points and also tied for a game-high seven rebounds. Senior guard Naama Shafir finished with 14 points and a game-high nine assists for UT, while sophomore forward Inma Zanoguera had 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals in 33 minutes.
Junior center and Central Catholic grad Brianna “Crunch” Jones, meanwhile, contributed 10 points on 50 percent shooting in 20 minutes of action.
“I thought when she turned on the intensity the rest of the team followed,” Cullop said of Dortch. “And I also was pleased with Brianna Jones coming off the bench to give us some offensive production because Yolanda [Richardson] was in foul trouble most of the game and she responded.
“It was her opportunity. It was her day, and she took full advantage of the opportunity.”
Early on in the contest, the Rockets (19-2, 7-1 Mid-American Conference) didn’t take care of the basketball. UT committed seven turnovers which translated into seven Western Michigan points as the Broncos held a 9-8 lead by the 11:44 mark.
With 8:17 to go before half, a rebound and outlet pass from Shafir set up a transition layup from Dortch, who got fouled and cashed the subsequent free throw to make it 17-16 Toledo. From that point, the Rockets went on a 14-4 run to lead 31-20 at halftime.
“Probably because we all got excited after that,” Dortch said in response to if that play was a turning point in the game for UT. “Then just that little momentum got everybody else going.”
The Rockets ended up finishing the first half with just eight turnovers after committing seven of them in the game’s first eight-plus minutes of play. Toledo finished with 12 turnovers in the game.
“Well, that’s just on our behalf,” Jones said of UT’s first half turnovers. “We’ve just got to read a defense and know exactly where the ball needs to go. Halftime, obviously, we talked about it and we had to come out and execute a whole lot better than we did the first half. And I think that’s what kind of got our momentum going for the second half.”
In the second half, the Broncos (6-15, 2-6 MAC) started with an 8-4 run to cut Toledo’s lead to seven when a layup from Alex Morton made it 35-28 with 17:20 remaining. Western Michigan continued to chip away at the Rockets’ lead after the Broncos’ A.J. Johnson saved the ball from going out of bounds and banked in a three-pointer from the right side to make it 39-33 UT at the 14:31 mark.
However, UT countered with a 12-6 run when Jones hit a jumper to extend Toledo’s lead to 51-39 with 9:14 on the clock. Jones had six of the Rockets’ 20 points to start the second half.
“Everybody has to be ready,” Jones said of her game. “You never know when your number’s going to be called, and I think just tonight I was just really confident and just ready to go.”
Though WMU continued to battle down the stretch, the closest the Broncos would get after that was nine as Toledo picked up the 65-54 victory.
UT will be in action again on Feb. 6 when it heads to Oxford, Ohio for a matchup with MAC East Division leader Miami (OH) (13-7, 5-2 MAC) at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to have the same focus that we had against Ohio, and I thought against BG we had really good focus for 40 minutes,” Cullop said on facing the RedHawks. “That’s got to come from within.”