Toledo tops Northern Illinois in MAC Tournament Quarterfinals, 72-62

March 9, 2012 | News, UToday
By Brian DeBenedictis

Andola Dortch led the Rockets with 24 points.

No. 3 seed Toledo held No. 7 seed Northern Illinois scoreless for almost 12 minutes in the second half and notched a 72-62 victory Thursday in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals contest inside Quicken Loans Arena.

With the victory, the Rockets (21-8) will advance to the MAC Tourney Semifinals for the fifth straight season and face No. 2 seed Eastern Michigan Friday, March 9, at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Sophomore Andola Dortch paced the 2011-12 MAC West Division co-champs with a game-high 24 points and a contest-best eight assists. Dortch was instrumental in Toledo’s second-half surge, tallying 14 points after the intermission to finish in double digits for the team-best 23rd time this season.

Senior Haylie Linn added 12 points in a winning effort, while junior Kyle Baumgartner tossed in nine points, and senior Courtney Ingersoll and junior Lecretia Smith totaled eight points each to help UT defeat the Huskies (14-17) for the third time this season.

NIU’s Courtney Shelton hit a jumper to give the visitors a 44-40 lead with 18:08 left in regulation. Northern Illinois did not score again until Natecia Augusta converted a pair of free throws at the 6:45 mark. The Rockets took advantage of the drought and reeled off 14 straight points to establish a double-digit cushion.

Toledo put it in cruise control from there and did not allow its lead to dip below nine points for the remainder of the contest to improve to 3-1 against NIU in the MAC Tourney.

Dortch poured in eight of UT’s final 16 points to preserve the victory and set up a rematch with Eastern Michigan from last year’s MAC Tournament Semifinals, when the Eagles upset the top-seed Rockets, 61-55.

Kim Davis paced NIU with 14 points, followed by Amanda Corral with 13 points.

The Huskies controlled the contest early on, receiving three triples from Shelton to shoot out to a 15-10 lead with 14:19 remaining in the first half.

NIU continued to knock down shots as the first period wore on, and a trey by Corral made the difference 22-12 at 11:51. Northern Illinois made four of its first six three-point attempts to build an early double-digit cushion.

UT then started to find its shooting groove as well, utilizing a 10-0 run to knot the score at 34-34 with 4:20 left in the opening stanza. Dortch and Linn spearheaded the burst with five points each.

Northern Illinois effectively used a pair of timeouts to stall out Toledo’s run, and Corral retaliated with five straight points to give the advantage back to the visitors, 40-38, at the intermission.

NIU shot a sizzling 57.7 percent (23 of 58) in the first half, but was limited to 25.0 percent (8 of 32) in the second period.