Syracuse outscored Toledo 10-9 in overtime to hand the 2011-12 Mid-American Conference West Division co-champs a 74-73 setback on Saturday in the Elite Eight of the WNIT before 4,013 fans in Savage Arena.The defeat ends the Rockets’ (24-10) bid to defend their WNIT Championship.
Sophomore Andola Dortch led the Midnight Blue and Gold with 23 points, five assists, five rebounds and a game-high four steals in a career-best 44 minutes. Dortch shot 5 of 13 from the field, 2 of 4 from three-point land, and 11 of 19 from the charity stripe to score in double figures for the team-best 27th time this season.
Joining Dortch in double digits were senior Haylie Linn with 15 points and junior Yolanda Richardson with 10 points, respectively. Toledo also received quality efforts from sophomore Brianna Jones (9 points, career-high 7 rebounds) and senior Courtney Ingersoll (8 points).
The Rockets were limited to a postseason-low 31.3 percent (24 of 64) from the field, including 36.8 percent (7 of 19) from beyond the arc, and 58.5 percent (24 of 41) from the free-throw line, suffering their first overtime setback since the end of the 2009-10 campaign.
Syracuse was paced by Rachel Coffey’s 23 points, while Iasia Hemingway had 18 points, snapping UT’s 10-game home win streak in the WNIT. Coffey tied her career high with six three-point field goals, including a huge triple with 2.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
The teams exchanged points to begin the extra session, before SU’s Hemingway converted a pair of free throws and a layup to give the visitors a 67-66 lead with 2:23 showing on the clock. It proved to be a lead the Big East member would not relinquish.The Orange’s advantage grew to as many as five points in overtime, 72-67, but UT fought to the bitter end behind strong play from Dortch. The second-team All-MAC honoree notched the team’s final seven points, but it was not enough in the end as Syracuse gained some retribution from last season’s overtime setback to Toledo in the Elite Eight.
Both squads had heavy legs in the extra period and combined for only two field goals. The deciding factor was Syracuse made 8 of 12 charity tosses in the overtime, compare to 6 of 10 for Toledo.
SU (22-14) looked good early and knocked down their first three triples of the contest, racing out to a 13-8 lead at the 15:42 mark. Coffey sparked the sizzling start with a pair of treys, and La’Shay Taft accounted for the other triple to give the visitors the early two-possession advantage.
The visitors continued to play with the lead as the first half wore on, benefitting from a three-point field goal from Hemingway to make the score 20-13 at 10:07.
To make matters even worse for the Rockets, Richardson picked up two quick fouls and was forced to sit a majority of the half.
With UT struggling to put the ball in the basket, SU’s Kayla Alexander contributed a pair of field goals to increase the margin to 24-18 at 3:52, forcing UT into a timeout.
The Orange’s lead did not slip below four points for the remainder of the half, as they took a 31-26 lead into the intermission.
UT limited to 27.6 percent (8 of 29) from the field in the opening stanza, compared to 40.6 percent (13 of 32) for Syracuse.
A bright spot for Toledo in the period was the play of Linn and Jones, who combined for 14 points and five boards.
The Rockets came out with chips on their shoulders to start the second half, receiving a trey from Dortch and a jumper from sophomore Janelle Reed-Lewis to make it a one-possession game, 34-32, at 16:24.
Moments later, Ingersoll drilled her first triple of the afternoon to put the home team in the lead, 39-37, for the first time since the open minutes. The Rockets’ last had the advantage at 8-7 at the 16:46 mark in the opening stanza.
UT held onto the lead until the Orange went on an 11-3 run to make the score 49-44 with 9:41 showing on the clock. Elashier Hall had four points in the burst, and Coffey buried her fifth triple to build a five-point cushion.
The Rockets would not be denied, though, and countered with a 16-6 run to put them back in control, 60-55, at 2:10. Richardson contributed a pair of a layups, and Ingersoll tied the school record for triples in a single season (96) to give them a five-point bulge.
Much to the dismay of the Rocket faithful in attendance, Syracuse stayed within striking distance down the stretch on the strength of points from Carmen Tyson-Thomas and Hemingway to set the stage for Coffey’s desperation triple in the waning seconds of regulation.
With the completion of today’s game, the collegiate careers of seniors Ingersoll and Linn came to an end. The Rockets’ dynamic duo helped the Midnight Blue and Gold post an impressive 96-40 (.706) overall ledger and an even better 50-14 (.782) MAC mark during the last four years, winning a WNIT Championship, a conference regular-season title, three division crowns and advancing to the postseason on three occasions.