The University of Toledo played through half its game against Cleveland State University last night before the Rockets realized their Christmas break hadn't actually kicked in yet.
A fiery speech by UT coach Mark Ehlen inside the locker room at halftime helped remind the Rockets there was some unfinished business to attend to before getting a few days off for the holiday.
The Rockets, who trailed by seven points at intermission, responded by rallying past the Vikings for a 78-62 victory before an announced crowd of 1,105 at Savage Hall.
UT outscored Cleveland State 46-25 in the final 20 minutes to improve to 6-3 for the season.
Kahli Carter scored 14 of her game-high 18 points after halftime, while Courtney Risinger pumped in 13 of her 15 in the second half to help lead the Rockets to the come-from-behind win.
“Coach Ehlen really got on us at halftime,” said Carter, who also pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds. “He talked about playing with pride. We didn't play UT basketball in the first half.”
Carter, who has been named the Mid-American Conference West Division player of the week twice this season, only took four shots in the first 20 minutes of play when Ehlen felt most of the Rockets seemed to be just going through the motions. She admits she was probably “too passive” early in the game when the Vikings were making a strong effort to knock off the Rockets for the second straight year.
UT's Tia Davis finished with 13 points while Kenosha Chastang, a 6-4 junior, came off the bench to produce 12 points in 12 minutes. It was the first game Chastang was eligible to play in this season after transferring to UT from Western Kentucky last year.
“It was just fun to get out there to play in a game where it means something,” said Chastang, who made all four of her shot attempts from the floor.
Chastang's debut in a Rocket uniform was pleasing to see for Ehlen.
“That was pretty good, 12 points in 12 minutes,” Ehlen said. “We told her before the game we had to limit her playing time, but she was an impact player in the game.”
The Rockets never seemed in sync before halftime. They played as if their minds were elsewhere.
“I really don't know what it was,” Carter said, of UT's sluggish start. “The bottom line is we should have been ready to play at the start.”
Nevertheless, the Rockets never allowed the Vikings (5-5) to lead by double-digits even when they were struggling to find their game. Ultimately, UT did what it had to do to earn the win.
“Whether or not I'm happy with how we started the game, I'm happy with winning the game,” Ehlen said.
Cleveland State's Erika Roudebush and Venus Harmeyer finished with a team-high 11 points apiece. Mahogany Green, a Bowsher High graduate, struggled all night offensively to finish with eight points on a 2-for-15 shooting effort. She recorded 10 rebounds and also committed 10 of her team's 24 turnovers.
Green, a 5-9 senior, entered the game averaging 16 points a contest to lead the Vikings.
“Playing at home she may have been trying a little too hard,” Ehlen said, of Green.