The Toledo women’s basketball team may not have earned a bye to the Mid-American Conference Tournament, but the Rockets did the next best thing, cruising to a 61-44 victory over Ohio in first-round MAC Tournament action before 3,687 in Savage Arena.Senior Andola Dortch led a balanced scoring attack with 13 points, as nine Rockets made into the scoring ledger. Fellow senior Janelle Reed-Lewis added 11 points, and freshman Elena de Alfredo chipped in with nine, going three for three from behind the arc.
Toledo shot 50.0 percent (26 of 52) from the floor while holding the Bobcats to just 27.3 (18 of 66). The Rockets led at halftime, 33-14, and built their lead to as much as 27 points in the second half. Ohio got into a deep hole by shooting 18.8 percent in the first half, including just 1 of 19 shots from three-point range.
The No. 6 seed Rockets (15-15) advance to play No. 7 seed Western Michigan (13-17) at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. They will need a run of four consecutive wins in Cleveland to claim the MAC Tournament title and advance to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. No. 11 seed Ohio ends its season with a 9-21 mark.
Toledo’s road back to Cleveland was not smooth sailing at the very beginning of the game, as the Rockets made just one of their first six shots. But UT’s defense kept Ohio off the scoreboard, and a three-pointer by Reed-Lewis moved the Midnight Blue and Gold out to a 7-0 lead with 14 minutes left in the opening round.
The Rockets slowly extended the lead throughout the first half. A triple by de Alfredo capped an 11-2 run that put UT up, 26-11, with four minutes to play in the half. Following Ohio’s only three-pointer of the half, Toledo closed out the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 33-14 lead into the locker room.
A jumper by Reed-Lewis early in the second half pushed the lead out to 39-16 before the Bobcats made a 7-0 spurt that cut the lead to 16, 39-23, with 16:32 to play. But Toledo answered with a 15-4 run that was sealed by a Brianna Jones’ jumper with 8:59 to play that removed any threat of an Ohio miracle comeback.
Toledo will face a Western Michigan squad that swept UT in the regular season, most recently a 60-59 victory in Savage Arena Feb. 23. The winner of that game will face No. 3 seed Akron at 2:30 Thursday, March 13.