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Published: Monday, 2/17/2003

Toledo spurt earns victory

Toledo's Karen Hoogendam is closely guarded by Ohio's Tiffany Byrd. The Rockets are 17-6, 10-2 in the MAC. Toledo's Karen Hoogendam is closely guarded by Ohio's Tiffany Byrd. The Rockets are 17-6, 10-2 in the MAC.

It was brutally cold outside yesterday, and the University of Toledo women's basketball team's offense was similarly chilly for the majority of its game in Savage Hall.

But the Rockets got hot over a six-minute stretch midway through the second half that propelled them to a 55-46 victory over Ohio University before an announced crowd of 3,024.

After shooting just 27 percent from the floor in the first half, Toledo trailed 25-23 with 12:18 left in the contest. However, the Rockets then went on a 20-6 run and an eventual 16-point lead.

“It wasn't pretty, but it was a `W,' and this time of year you take them anyway you can get them,” UT coach Mark Ehlen said . “We had that good stretch in the second half where we had that spurt and that was pretty much the ball game.”

With the ugly victory, Toledo (17-6, 10-2 Mid American Conference) sits alone atop the MAC West Division standings. The Rockets are one game in front of Ball State (15-7, 9-3).

The Rockets entered the game ranked fourth in the conference in scoring offense (68.8 points per game) and sixth in field-goal percentage (42.9 percent).

But Toledo hit just 8 of 30 shots in the first half and committed 12 turnovers. UT's only saving grace was the fact that the Bobcats were similarly horrid from the floor, shooting just 32 percent while turning the ball over 14 times. The result was a lackluster 19-19 deadlock at the half.

“In the first half we missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of lay-ups,” Ehlen said. “We didn't have people looking for their shots. We were just a little out of sync.”

For about the first eight minutes of the second half, both teams continued to struggle as Toledo fell behind by two.

But junior guard Julie Hillis knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Rockets a lead they would never relinquish. UT then drained 10 of its next 11 attempts.

“The top of the key, that's my shot. I knew I could stick it,” said Hillis, who finished with nine points. “If that got a run going, that was great. We just went off from there.”

Hillis capped a 9-0 run on a driving lay up.

Junior guard Kelly Walker continued the hot streak with a 3-pointer that put the Rockets up by eight with 7:58 left, and moments later she hit another trey to give Toledo a 42-31 advantage. Walker then competed a 20-6 run with a three-point play that put UT up 45-37 with just under six minutes to play.

“The first half was a struggle for us, especially offensively,” Walker said. “We couldn't swing the ball around and get good shots. We started swinging the ball well [in the second half]. We were making good passes and finding the open person and we got some good shots.”

Ohio (7-16, 3-9), which was led by Latreece Bagley's game-high 15 points, managed to cut the lead to eight points with 2:44 left. But UT hit eight of nine free-throw attempts down the stretch to seal its second straight win. Mary Blessing and Walker each connected on all four of their attempts in the final minutes.

Walker finished with a team-high 14 points for Toledo. Blessing, also a junior guard, added 13 points.

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