Senior guard Quinesha Lockett scored 17 points to lead the Toledo Rockets to a 73-58 victory over arch-rival Bowling Green in the MAC Championship finals at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Saturday.
With the victory, Toledo (28-4) earns an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, the ninth tourney appearance in its history and first since 2017, which was also the last time Toledo won the MAC Tournament championship. It was the 16th consecutive win for Toledo, whose last defeat was at Bowling Green on Jan. 18.
“I was really proud of the effort of our players today, especially right out of the gate,” said Head Coach Tricia Cullop, who is headed to the NCAAs for the second time in her career. “We have a lot of respect for Bowling Green, for their coaching staff and their players, and we knew it would take a valiant effort to beat them.”
Lockett, who added five rebounds and six assists, was named the Tournament MVP. She totaled 44 points in three games in the tournament.
Senior guard Sammi Mikonwicz and sophomore forward Jessica Cook joined Lockett on the All-Tournament Team.
Cook added 16 points on 8-of-11 from the floor to go with seven rebounds vs. BGSU, while Mikonwicz added eight points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Toledo jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never trailed in the contest, though Bowling Green did narrow the margin to five points in the second half. But the Rockets exploded for 25 points in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“Our players just didn’t want to be denied,” Cullop said. “They were locked in. I’m just so happy for them. They’ve never had a chance to experience this. The joy in my heart to see them experience something for the first time is unbelievable.”
It was retribution of sorts for Toledo, which won the regular season title in each of the past two season but was eliminated in the semifinals last season.
“Honestly, I think that’s what got us here today, not getting everything we wanted lats year,” said senior guard Sofia Wiard. “We had a great season last year but we ended up in the WNIT, which was a great opportunity but it wasn’t what we were looking for.
“Every single day from that day forward we were hungry and we knew we wanted to get where we ended up today.”
Toledo will find out its first-round opponent during the NCAA Selection Show on ESPN on Sunday at 8 p.m.