Toledo sent 2,546 fans home happy with a 63-49 triumph over Butler Thursday in the first round of the WNIT in Savage Arena.With the wire-to-wire win, the Rockets (28-3) advance past the first round of the postseason for a fourth consecutive season.
The 2011 WNIT Champions now will host Horizon League member Youngstown State (23-9) in a second-round matchup Saturday, March 23, at 2 p.m.
Senior Naama Shafir led three Rockets in double figures with 17 points, four assists and four rebounds. She was joined in double digits by sophomore Inma Zanoguera with 16 points and three steals, and senior Yolanda Richardson with 12 points, a team-high seven boards and three thefts. The dynamic trio accounted for 71.4 percent of UT’s points this evening against the Bulldogs.
The Rockets shot 42.4 percent (25 of 59) from the field, including 25.0 (3 of 12) from three-point range, and 66.7 percent (10 of 15) from the charity stripe to improve to 4-0 all time against Butler.
UT dominated the interior and finished with a 26-14 edge in points in the paint. The 2012-13 Mid-American Conference Regular-Season Champions also held a 39-33 advantage on the glass. Toledo has won the battle on the boards in 13 consecutive contests.
Daress McClung paced Butler (17-14) with a game-high 18 points and eight caroms, but UT’s strong defensive effort forced her into a 6-of-17 shooting night from the field.
The Bulldogs were limited to 17 field goals (34.7 percent, 17 of 49) for the game and over half, nine, came from three-point land. The Atlantic 10 member also was guilty of 24 miscues, which UT translated into 22 points.
Toledo drew a lot of enthusiasm from the rowdy crowd and set the tone at the opening tip, jumping out to 10-2 cushion at the 13:03 mark. Three different players dropped in close-range baskets to give the home team a lead they would not surrender.
UT continued to play at a fast pace as the first half wore on, taking advantage of a jumper by senior Kyle Baumgartner with the shot clock expiring to extend its margin to 16-8 at 9:31.
With the Rockets controlling the paint, Butler turned to sharpshooter Taylor Schippers to keep the visitors within striking distance. Schippers knocked down three triples in a span of less than five minutes to close the margin to 18-17 with 5:05 remaining in the opening period.
Toledo settled down nicely following a timeout called by Head Coach Tricia Cullop; the Rockets utilized a pair of late field goals from Zanoguera to spark a 9-3 burst and establish a 27-20 lead at the intermission.
UT remained hot shooting the basketball to begin the second half and at one point reeled off six consecutive points to build a double-digit cushion, 35-25, with 16:03 left in regulation. Richardson triggered the strong start to the period with six points in the opening three-plus minutes.
Just when the Rockets thought they had the game in total control, Butler’s Mandy McDivitt buried a pair of three-point field goals to make it a two-possession difference, 42-37, at the 11:15 mark.
The Bulldogs continued to stay close over the next four-plus minutes until Zanoguera knocked down a triple from the corner and followed it up with layup to increase the margin to 49-39 at 6:35.
Toledo put it in cruise control from there and did not let its lead slip below eight points for the remainder of regulation, settling for the impressive 14-point home triumph.
Tickets for Saturday’s second-round WNIT matchup are on sale by calling the UT Ticket Office at 419.530.GOLD (4653).
Tickets are $15 for reserved lower bowl tickets and $12 for upper east general admission tickets.
All seats in the lower level will be sold as reserved seats.
UT employees may purchase up to two half-price tickets — $7.50 for reserved lower bowl seats and $6 for upper east general admission — at the ticket office with a valid employee ID or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653).
Elite season ticket holders, as well as suite/loge/club and courtside seat holders, will be able to purchase their normal seat location. Elite season ticket holders have until Friday at 7 p.m. to purchase their seats. Those not purchased prior to this time will be released for general public sale.
All parking will be free and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.