The Toledo women’s basketball team captured one of its biggest wins in program history on Saturday, defeating No. 5 seed Iowa State, 80-73, in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The victory was the Rockets’ 17th straight win, a new school record, and propels them into the second round of the Big Dance for the first time since the 1995-96 season. Toledo’s win was also its largest upset triumph in terms of seeding in school history, and the performance matches the Mid-American Conference record for highest seed to win an NCAA Tournament game, last accomplished by No. 12 seed Ball State in 2009.
UToledo also improved to 29-4 on the season, tying the school record for most wins in a season. Its 58 combined wins between this year and last are tied for the most wins in back-to-back seasons by a MAC school in league history.
Toledo will face No. 4 seed Tennessee at 6 p.m. Monday, March 20, in Knoxville. The game will air on ESPN2.
The difference in seeding unfazed the Rockets on Saturday, who led for 31:06 of the 40 minutes played and led by as many as 16 over the Big 12 Tournament Champion Cyclones.
Toledo trailed by three at the end of the first quarter, but opened the second quarter with a 14-2 run to take a nine-point lead. UToledo would not trail for the rest of the game despite an Iowa State rally that trimmed the lead to five in the closing seconds.
Once the clock hit zeroes, the Rockets spilled onto the court to celebrate their first NCAA Tournament win in 27 years.
“Before the game we talked about this opportunity,” Head Coach Tricia Cullop said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the focus and effort and intensity our players showed all game long. This team was very determined after not getting what we wanted a year ago. We not only wanted this opportunity, but we wanted a chance to see how deep we could really go.
“I’m just so proud of them and I’m honored to be their coach.”
Senior Quinesha Lockett was outstanding, scoring a game-high 24 points while grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds for her sixth career double-double. Senior Jayda Jansen and junior Nan Garcia scored 17 points and 12 points, respectively, off the bench, and senior Sophia Wiard added 15 points to help the cause. Junior Sammi Mikonowicz pulled down 10 rebounds, her ninth game with double-digit rebounds this season and fourth such effort in the last five games.
Toledo shot 48.4% (30-for-62) for the game and 56.3% (18-for-32) in the first half.
“Before the game started, we knew what we were capable of,” Jansen said. “We’re really confident in one another. It’s us against the world, we’re not scared of anybody.”
Iowa State was led by Big 12 Player of the Year Ashley Joens, who scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while going a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line. Joens was one of four players to score in double figures for Iowa State.
One of the top volume three-point shooting teams in the nation, ISU connected on just 6-of-31 three-pointers in Saturday’s game.
The Cyclones won the battle of the boards, 40-36, but Toledo outrebounded them on the defensive end by a 32-29 margin. Iowa State ranked fourth in the nation in defensive rebounds per game (31.1) entering the game.