Toledo (8-1) will look to continue its winning ways when it entertains No. 2 Notre Dame (9-1) Sunday, Dec. 18. Tip-off time is set for 2 p.m. in Savage Arena, and the game will be streamed live on ESPN3.
The Rockets are off to their best start since tallying 12 victories in their opening 13 contests in 2012-13.UT will be greatly challenged by the Fighting Irish, who will be the highest ranked opponent to ever visit Savage Arena. The previous highest-ranked team was No. 5 Duke, and Toledo defeated the Blue Devils, 71-65, Nov. 18, 2001.
The Rockets have been nearly unbeatable in Savage Arena over the last eight-plus years and compiled a 104-28 (.787) ledger, including a perfect 4-0 mark this season. The Midnight Blue and Gold has outscored the opposition by a whopping 29.8 points per game (79.2-49.5) in its home contests this year.
Toledo, which is No. 21 in this week’s collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, is coming off a 74-50 victory over 2016 NCAA Tournament participant St. Bonaventure last Sunday before 3,143 fans at home.
UT’s pressure defense produced 15 steals and forced the Bonnies (4-6) into committing 29 turnovers, which the Rockets translated into a season-high 33 points to help secure its fourth win against Atlantic-10 opponents this year. Toledo also has victories against Rhode Island, Davidson and most recently Dayton in 2016-17.
Offensively, freshman Mariella Santucci led a balanced Toledo attack with a game-high 13 points and a contest-best four helpers, followed closely by junior Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott with 12 and senior Sophie Reecher with a season-high 10 off the bench.
The Rockets also received nine points from sophomore Mikaela Boyd and eight by sophomore Kaayla McIntyre to stretch their winning streak to four consecutive games.
In total, 11 of the 12 Rockets scored in the 24-point triumph and every player logged double-digit playing minutes.
UT dominated most categories in the final stat sheet and posted a 42-26 edge in points in the paint, 33-4 advantage in points off turnovers, 17-7 edge in second-chance points, 8-0 advantage in fast-break points, and 33-14 edge in bench points. The Rockets also totaled 14 assists and only 10 turnovers, signifying the fourth-straight contest and sixth overall time this year they have posted more helpers than miscues.
Toledo is fueled offensively by the quartet by Bravo-Harriott, Boyd, senior Janice Monakana and Santucci, who are averaging 13.4, 11.7, 10.1 and 9.8 points per game, respectively.
Notre Dame enters Sunday’s matchup on the heels of a 75-61 road victory at No. 16 DePaul Dec. 10. Arike Ogunbowale paced the Fighting Irish with 17 points, followed closely by Brianna Turner and Lindsay Allen with 14 each.
The Fighting Irish features an offense with five players averaging at least 9.5 points per game led by Ogunbowale’s 16.6 points per game, followed by Turner’s 13.8 points per game and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game.
Toledo will face its 24th ranked opponent and second this year since 1995-96. Earlier this season, UT dropped a 75-73 neutral-court decision against No. 9 UCLA in the second round of the Cancun Challenge Nov. 25.
The Rockets have compiled a 3-20 (.130) mark in those contests. UT’s three victories versus ranked opponents came against No. 20 Dayton, 68-65, in 2009 at home, No. 24 Ole Miss, 65-53, in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament in Roanoke, Va., and the No. 5 Blue Devils.
Toledo also has squared off against a nationally ranked Notre Dame squad on three occasions during this time. The Rockets dropped an 82-64 road decision against the No. 6 Fighting Irish (Dec. 2, 1998), suffered a 68-52 home setback vs. No. 7 UND (Nov. 20, 1999), and most recently sustained a 74-39 road loss to No. 3 Notre Dame (Nov. 18, 2015).
Toledo and Notre Dame will meet for the second straight year and eighth time in the overall series. The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series, 4-3, and have won the last three matchups. A season ago, No. 3 UND claimed a 74-39 home triumph Nov. 18, 2015.
The Rockets’ last win in the series occurred Jan. 6, 1990 when they registered a 70-69 home victory.
Following Sunday’s game, Toledo will wrap up non-conference play when it hosts Detroit Mercy Wednesday, Dec. 21. The opening tip against the Titans is slated for 7 p.m. in Savage Arena and will be streamed live on ESPN3.