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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Physical play helps UT women win

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The University of Toledo women's basketball team learned something new about coach Tricia Cullop during its recent long layoff - the sound of her singing voice.

In the practices leading up to UT's 78-69 victory over Morehead State Friday night, Cullop sang Olivia Newton-John's hit "Physical" to the Rockets. She never again wanted to see her team get dominated on the boards like when Temple outrebounded the Rockets by 35 last week.

According to freshman guard Courtney Ingersoll, "she should go on American Idol."

UT won the rebounding battle by four over the Eagles, helped by Ingersoll's four defensive rebounds in the final three minutes. The Rockets improved their record to 4-6.

"I'm doing anything I can to get our team to be physical," Cullop said. "That was one thing that when we went out to Philadelphia, they were very physical with us and we looked like we had never faced that before. It's my job to get us prepared. Since that game there have been a lot of pads in practice hitting them."

Ingersoll had a career-high 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals off the bench to lead the Rockets. Junior Lisa Johnson added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and three other UT players scored in double figures in the game at Savage Arena. UT's point total was a season high.

The Rockets scored the first 10 points of the game but had to weather several Morehead State runs throughout. With point guard Naama Shafir in foul trouble most of the game, things got sloppy in the first half, particularly on post entry passes. Ingersoll's 3-pointer with 30 seconds left put the Rockets up 35-32 at the half.

"We had to learn to win without a kid who's put a lot of points up on the board," Cullop said. "Other people had to step up."

UT took leads of eight and nine points in the second half but couldn't put Morehead State (7-4) away. The Eagles featured the nation's leading shot-blocker in 6-foot-3 Brittany Pittman. Pittman got in foul trouble in the first half but had 12 points and three blocks after halftime.

Johnson got the best of her late, though. After the Eagles tied the score at 67 with 3 1/2 minutes remaining, Johnson made a go-ahead baseline jumper and then drew two fouls on Pittman, connecting on 3 of 4 free throws.

"Lisa came through toward the end and finally got her confidence back against one of the best shot-blockers in the country," Cullop said. "I thought Courtney Ingersoll might have been the MVP of the game because of the rebounds she got late in the game that really sealed the victory."

Afterward the Rockets took pride in that one of the preseason goals listed in their locker room is still alive.

"One of our goals is to be undefeated at home," Johnson said. "We plan to get that done. I'm looking forward to the next three home games to keep that tradition going."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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