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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011

UT's champions

On most college campuses, women’s basketball lacks the attention given the men’s team. The Women’s National Invitation Tournament is a distant second in prestige to the NCAA’s women’s basketball tourney. But the University of Toledo Lady Rockets proved it’s better to be the belle of the ball you’re invited to than to pine over the call you didn’t get.

Coach Tricia Cullop’s team beat the University of Southern California on Saturday to win the WNIT. That would not have happened had the top-ranked UT women not lost in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament. That cost them a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.

But by winning the WNIT, UT took home a big piece of hardware to display in its trophy case and bragging rights as a national champion. More important, the women’s basketball team reached the forefront of Toledoans’ consciousness.

Savage Arena sold out for the semifinal and final games, drawing school and MAC record crowds. Cynics may argue whether UT’s decision to outbid everyone else to play at home throughout the WNIT accounted for the team’s success.

But the players know what they did. After losing three of their first four games this season, the Lady Rockets finished on a 17-2 run, including their six WNIT victories. They won 29 games, a record for the program.

A celebration of the champs will be held tomorrow evening in Savage Arena, which is likely to rock once more to a packed house. The team’s fans have a lot to look forward to: With only two graduating seniors, the Lady Rockets may have a full dance card next spring as well.

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