Rockets win first WNIT game 63-49 against ButlerWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Rockets (28-3) bounced back from coming up short in the Mid-American Conference Tournament and defeated the Butler Bulldogs 63-49 at home March 21.
“I’m not going to lie, that loss hurt all of us but I think we took it as a positive thing; we took it as a motivation and we really want to go out there,” said Rockets guard Inma Zanoguera, who finished the game with 16 points, a block and three steals. “We really want to win the WNIT. That’s our main goal. The past is the past there is nothing you can do about it now; all you can do is prove people wrong and just keep working hard and get whatever goal you have ahead.”
Toledo opened up the game with a 6-2 run in the first 2:09 and never lost the lead.
Despite holding on to the lead for the entire game, the Rockets were never able to quiet Butler (17-14) until 4:58 left in the second half, when Andola Dortch’s layup put Toledo up by double-digits for the rest of the game.
“They’re very well coached, they’re very skilled, I think at any moment I’m always worried about [Butler coming from behind],” said Rockets head coach Tricia Cullop. “But one thing I tried to do was rotate a lot of fresh bodies in. One thing we’ve been effective of is wearing teams down and I thought our depth really paid off down the stretch where we were able to hang on to our lead.”
The Rockets controlled the glass for the entire game, outrebounding Butler 39-33, including 17 offensive rebounds for Toledo, resulting in 16 second chance points.
Zanoguera finished the game shooting 7-of-13 from the floor using both her jump shot and strength to connect from different points on the court.
After stealing the ball, Zanoguera drove the ball down and used her strength to break through the defense and hit the layup to put Toledo up by five with 1:51 left in the first stanza.
She connected on a jump shot with under a minute to play in the opening half after moving the ball from the right wing to behind the free throw line to give the Rockets the 27-20 halftime lead.
Butler forward Daress McClung paced the Bulldogs with 18 points and eight rebounds, 14 of those points coming in the second half. She also shot 2-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Cullop said the eventual answer to containing the forward, who led the Bulldogs in scoring this season, was rotating Lecretia Smith and Zanoguera to guard her.
“When Daress was hurting us, we actually switched Inma on to her and I thought that was a great move because here, Lecretia was tired and we put a fresh body on her,” she said. “Then we were able to rotate Lecretia back in during those minutes and I believe it wore her down a little bit.”
Toledo will host the Youngstown State Penguins March 23 at 2 p.m. in the next round of the WNIT.
The Penguins, who defeated Indiana State 63-51 tonight, finished second in the Horizon League with an 11-5 conference record.
Cullop said while she is not that familiar with Youngstown State, the team runs an offense similar to MAC foe Central Michigan and the team should not make too many adjustments to Youngstown’s style of play.
“I know they have a post player, who very much like Daress McClung, can step out and shoot the three and drive, she’s undersized but she is very, very good,” Cullop said. “A lot of screening, cutting action; we played that style a couple of games ago. It’s not going to be startling for our team to have to match up to that.”
Cullop said the team has “lofty goals” for the rest of the season. Toledo’s 28 wins is the second-most they’ve recorded in a season and just one shy from tying the record.
“I think the good thing is this team has tasted what a championship in this tournament is like,” she said. “We also know it wasn’t easy. Every team we face is going to have the same expectations we have.
“Every team you face is dangerous. It’s an invitational tournament so you had to be good to get in. I think the important thing is we pay attention to the details. The really small things are going to make the difference between winning and losing in this tournament.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Savage Arena.