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Rockets to face RedHawks in MAC Tourney quarterfinals

No. 6 seed Toledo (20-10) will tangle with No. 3 seed Miami (22-7) in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Mid-American Conference Tournament Wednesday, March 13, in Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The opening tip is slated for approximately 7 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN+.

Fans greeted Toledo players as they headed to the court for the “Rockets for the Cure” game in February.

The cross-division foes have squared off on four occasions in the post-season tourney, with Toledo holding a 3-1 record. Most recently, UT registered a 62-47 home triumph in the first round of the 2015 MAC Tournament in Savage Arena.

UT and Miami also will meet for the third time this year and 67th time overall. The Rockets were swept in the regular-season series against the RedHawks, suffering a 65-64 road setback (Jan. 9) and a 65-56 home loss (Feb. 20). Despite three-consecutive setbacks against Miami, UT still leads the all-time series, 38-28.

Toledo, which is 8-7 (.533) away from home this season, advanced to the quarterfinals of the post-season tourney with a hard-fought 67-63 home victory against No. 11 seed Ball State (8-23) Monday night.

Senior Kaayla McIntyre led the way with 19 points, and sophomore Nakiah Black added 16 as UT secured its 20th victory of the season.

The Rockets built an early lead against BSU and then fought off a late rally. Black nailed four of five shots for nine points in the first half as Toledo jumped out to a 21-8 first-quarter lead. Toledo pushed the lead up to 14 points in the second quarter before settling on a 33-23 margin at halftime.

Ball State hung around in the second half, before pulling to within two points, 59-57, with a little more than a minute remaining in regulation. Black scored seven points in the final minute to clinch the victory and help Toledo advance to the next round.

Toledo shot the ball well, hitting 25 of 54 (46.3 percent) from the field. The Rockets were outrebounded, 35-31, but held the Cardinals to just 23 of 58 (39.7 percent) shooting.

Junior Mariella Santucci had a big night for the Rockets, scoring 12 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and handing out six assists while committing just two turnovers.

Toledo continues to be fueled offensively by the quartet of 2018-19 second-team All-MAC recipient McIntyre, Black, 2018-19 honorable mention all-conference honoree senior Mikaela Boyd and Santucci, who are averaging 16.4, 10.7, 9.6 and 9.4 points per game, respectively. This quartet accounts for 69.8 percent (1,372 of 1,965) of Toledo’s scoring.

The Rockets will take on a Miami squad that snapped a three-game losing skid with a 66-49 home win vs. Akron Saturday in its regular-season finale. First-team All-MAC selection Lauren Dickerson and second-team all-league honoree Savannah Kluesner paced the RedHawks with 19 and 14 points against the Zips, respectively.

Miami is led by Dickerson’s 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 2.2 steals, followed by Kluesner’s 13.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. The RedHawks are 11-5 away from home.

The quarterfinal matchup will feature two of the league’s premiere defenses. Toledo paced the conference in scoring defense (60.9 points per game), overall field-goal percentage defense (.384, 40 of 1,053), three-point field-goal percentage defense (.281, 90 of 320) and three-point field-goals allowed (5.0) in league games, while Miami was third (63.9 points per game), tied for seventh (.414, 427 of 1,032) and second (.292, 93 of 318) (93, 5.2) in the same categories, respectively.

The winner of Wednesday’s contest will meet the winner of No. 2 seed Ohio (25-4) and No. 7 seed Northern Illinois (19-12) in the semifinals Friday, March 15, at approximately 1:30 p.m. in Quicken Loans Arena.

MAC Tournament tickets can be purchased online at the Toledo Rockets’ website, by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653) or by visiting the ticket office in Savage Arena. Only tickets purchased through the University will be in the Rocket section of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

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