YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Here were the first-half highlights from Tuesday's MAC West Division basketball showdown between the women from Toledo and their counterparts from Eastern Michigan.
At the first so-called media timeout, lucky fans won pizzas. At the second break, lucky fans caught miniature green basketballs. At the under-8:00 stoppage, the dance team performed. And about four minutes later a kid named Zach, or Zack, or for that matter maybe Zak, came out of the crowd to attempt 3-point shots. He got off 19 in one minute and made one.
Had he made two, Toledo coach Tricia Cullop might have signed him up.
The score at halftime was 28-18 in favor of EMU. The Rockets had 15 turnovers and executed poorly and shot worse and were victimized by a cruddy call from a referee that left UT without its two best defensive players and without a true point guard on the floor for the final 10 minutes of the half.
Cullop nearly blew a gasket and the Toledo players were visibly rattled, out of rotation, and incapable of creating any perimeter offense.
But the first 20 minutes finally ended. And when an EMU student nailed a half-court shot to win $500 during intermission, there were hopes for something better on the horizon.
Alas, Toledo scored four points on its first eight possessions of the second half. Eastern scored two points on seven possessions.
It was ugly. And it got uglier for the Rockets, who at least had played hard in half-court defense to that point. But there it ended as EMU scored at will in transition -- 14-2 in fast-break points in the second half -- and UT actually regressed offensively. Having almost as many turnovers as points is a dastardly combination.
There's nothing that says a classic can't turn into a clunker.
Eastern Michigan won 54-33 to sweep the two regular-season meetings between the teams and open a one-game lead in the division race with two games remaining for both squads.
Those of us from northwest Ohio tend to imagine that the MAC's best women's basketball is played in a 25-mile stretch from the UT campus to Bowling Green.
But this outcome was not an upset. This is the same EMU team that knocked Toledo out of last season's MAC tournament. That's three straight for the Eagles.
Cullop said she was disgusted with 28 turnovers, disappointed with offensive rebounding -- Eastern had 15, Toledo had four -- and generally disenchanted with most aspects of her team's execution.
But when asked if she could have expected such an effort after 10 straight victories, Cullop may have tipped the hand she has been dealt.
"I didn't expect us to play as poorly as we did tonight based on what we had done the last 10 games," she said. "But Eastern is a different kind of team than the teams we've played. They have a different style. They have great athleticism, great quickness. If you turn the ball over good luck catching them."
The Rockets chased, but never caught. EMU extended its defense, picked pockets, tipped balls, disrupted passing lanes, and put a bunch of those takeaways in the capable hands of Tavelyn James, the MAC's leading scorer who explodes in transition and who scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half.
This was the worst offensive performance by a Toledo team since early in the 2004-05 season. Considering the Rockets have won 90 of their last 128 games, it isn't exactly a trend. Chalk it up as just a bad night.
But it wasn't an upset.
Speed kills. And EMU can put the pedal to the metal.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.