Toledo takes down Eastern Michigan to win MAC regular-season crown

March 3, 2013 | News, UToday
By Brian DeBenedictis

The Rockets cut down the nets in Savage Arena. Toledo secured a 48-38 victory over Eastern Michigan Sunday to clinch the overall Mid-American Conference regular-season title, as well as the top seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop held up the net after the Rockets defeated Eastern Michigan, 48-38, to win the Mid-American Conference regular-season crown in Savage Arena.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop held up the net after the Rockets defeated Eastern Michigan, 48-38, to win the Mid-American Conference regular-season crown in Savage Arena.

A crowd of 4,557 fans watched UT run its win streak to 14 games and improve to 26-2 overall, 14-1 in the league.

Senior Lecretia Smith posted her fourth career double-double and finished with 10 points and a season-high 12 caroms to pace the victors. Sophomore Inma Zanoguera added a team-high 14 points with five rebounds to help the Midnight Blue and Gold sweep the regular-season series from the Eagles (8-20, 6-9 MAC) for a second time in the last three years.

The Rockets also received solid contributions from junior Andola Dortch (8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists.), senior Kyle Baumgartner (3 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) and senior Yolanda Richardson (2 points, 11 rebounds) to capture their second conference regular-season crown in the last three seasons and ninth (1991, ‘92, ‘95, ‘97, ‘99, 2001, ‘03, ‘11, ‘13) in the rich history of the program.

The story of the game was UT’s stout defense, which held EMU to its second-lowest output of the season. The Rockets stymied their division rivals and held them to 26.2 percent (17 of 65) from the field, including 11.1 percent (1 of 9) from three-point range, to snap their two-game win streak.

All-MAC candidate Desyree Thomas led the reigning MAC Tournament Champions with 14 points, eight caroms and five assists.

EMU did a good job of slowing down the pace in the contest and that wreaked havoc on UT’s offensive rhythm. The Rockets were never able to get into a flow and as a result were limited to 26.2 percent (16 of 61) from the floor, their second lowest effort in 2012-13.

Toledo came into the matchup firing on all cylinders offensively over the previous six games, averaging 75.5 points per game. UT also was shooting 46.6 percent (169 of 363) from the field during this stretch, including 37.6 percent (38 of 101) from three-point land.

It was a struggle for UT offensively from the opening tip, as it missed its first 11 shots from the field and trailed 8-2 at the 14:47 mark.

Toledo quickly recovered and strung together a 10-2 run to take a 12-10 lead with 10:42 remaining in the first half.

The Rockets would not be able to maintain that momentum, as they went scoreless for the next four-plus minutes and found themselves down 14-12 at 6:42.

The four-time reigning MAC West Division Champions then turned to their seniors for leadership, and the group delivered with flying colors. Kyle Baumgartner, Naama Shafir and Smith each recorded points in a game-changing 14-4 burst to build a 27-18 lead at the intermission. They also received clutch baskets from Dortch and Zanoguera to build an insurmountable margin at the break.

UT then stretched the lead to double figures early in the second half and never let it slip below seven points the rest of the way to secure the home triumph.

The Rockets finished with a commanding 57-41 edge on the boards and held a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points. Their 57 rebounds is a season high, surpassing their previous best effort of 51 vs. Ohio Jan. 31.

Toledo will return to the hardwood Wednesday, March 6, when it wraps up its regular season against Ball State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Prior to Wednesday’s contest, UT will honor five senior players —Baumgartner, Riley McCormick, Richardson, Shafir, Lecretia Smith — two senior team managers — Tion Taylor, Tabitha Yeager — and one senior student athletic trainer — Erica Dodge.

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