As the rules dictate, there were two halves to last night's Mid-American Conference women's basketball opener between the University of Toledo and Ball State.
Toledo sophomore guard Danielle Bishop needed but one of them - the second - to do a full game's worth of damage in the Rockets' 74-62 victory at Savage Hall.
Bishop, who had missed UT's previous three games with an ankle sprain, couldn't wait to get back in action. She returned in style by scoring 25 of her career-best 28 points after the break.
"Sitting out, I realized what we needed," Bishop said, "and we needed some scoring. I had three points [in first half] and I was trying to get easy baskets and I couldn't finish.
"I knew I had to come out [in second half] and play my game, and that's what I did."
Bishop, 7-of-11 from the field after halftime, mixed a career-best six 3-pointers into her total, and added a career-high seven rebounds.
"When you're hot you want to keep shooting, and they gave me the the ball and I was able to put it in," Bishop said. "I was ready to go this game. I had a lot of energy built up."
After starting the season with a dismal 4-7 non-conference mark, the Rockets (5-7, 1-0 MAC) were hoping to wipe that slate clean and focus on a good MAC start.
To do so, improving on their lowly 34 percent season field-goal shooting rate was a must. But that problem remained in the first half, which closed with UT at 9-of-33 (27 percent).
But nearly as poor (33 percent) shooting by Ball State (4-8, 0-1) in the first half enabled the Rockets to stay close. Freshman backup guard Aaron Richmond sank two free throws after the first-half buzzer for a 24-24 halftime tie.
"It's a good feeling," Rocket coach Mark Ehlen said of his team's improved (56 percent in second half) shooting. "We talked about it having to protect our home court. We had to stick some shots, and they did it. [The game] is sure a lot easier when you can knock down some open shots."
In addition to Bishop's hot second half, the Rockets also got 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds from 5-8 freshman guard Olivia Terry, plus 11 points and seven boards from senior center Karin Hoogendam.
UT, which never trailed by more than five in the first half, opened the second with a quick 8-0 run and never trailed thereafter.
Suddenly this UT team that couldn't shoot straight almost couldn't miss. The Rockets hit nine of their first 12 field goal tries, the ninth make part of Hoogendam's three-point play for a 49-40 lead with 10:06 remaining.
Hoogendam's second blocked shot of the game early in the second half gave her a UT career record 109.
The Cardinals, led by 20 points and 11 rebounds from Kate Endress and 19 points and five assists from guard Tina Bolte, did pull within 54-50 on a Krista Stewart 3-pointer with 5:34 to play. But UT responded with a decisive 8-0 run.
"It's been hard for us to generate offense this year, but to score 50 in the second half was a good feeling," Ehlen said. "We wanted this to be a second season for us, and it's really important, when you're 4-7, to put that behind you and try and get a fresh start. This was a good win for us in a lot of different ways."
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