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Published: Sunday, 12/13/2009

Rockets women struggle, but win


University of Toledo women's basketball coach Tricia Cullop had an important message for her team before yesterday's game against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

After a thrilling 19-point comeback win over No. 20 Dayton on Wednesday, Cullop was understandably worried about a letdown against an inferior opponent.

"Great teams don't slip up," Cullop told her players. "This program has a lot of pride and tradition, but in recent history people don't have the same respect for us. I think there were some people out there that probably expected us to slip up today.

"And if they want to be a great team, then they have to find a way to pull out victories even in times when you're struggling."

Although it was a struggle at times for the Rockets yesterday, they still managed to claim a 61-47 win over IPFW at Savage Arena in front of 1,978 to extend their winning streak to four games.

Despite shooting 28 percent from the field in the second half and committing 23 turnovers in the contest, UT (7-2) did just enough to keep the Mastodons at bay.

Trailing 32-25 at intermission, IPFW (2-6) came no closer than five points of the Rockets' lead in the second half.

"It was one of those games where we just came off of a big win," said UT senior forward Allie Clifton, who scored six of her eight points in the first half and grabbed a team-high six rebounds.

"But we had to leave that in the past and get our minds right and just come out and play."

Sophomore point guard Naama Shafir led UT with 14 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and four steals. She also had six turnovers.

Senior forward Tanika Mays added 11 points and four rebounds.

They were far from the only contributors for the Rockets, though, with every player in uniform playing at least four minutes.

But Cullop was far from happy with her bench players' production, as UT's six subs combined for just 19 points and 15 rebounds and committed seven turnovers.

"I thought our intensity really dropped off big time when we subbed, and that can't happen," Cullop said. "I want our kids to be scrappy no matter who's on the floor."

Even after IPFW shot 25 percent (7-of-28) from the field in the first half and didn't reach double-digit points until 6:16 remained before halftime, the Rockets allowed their opponent to hang around.

In the second half, UT pushed its lead to as high as 15 with 2:49 to play before giving up two quick baskets that made it 56-46 at the 2:03 mark.

"We need to push on the pedal," Clifton said. "We need to keep attacking. We need to push the ball. [But] not all wins are the prettiest, so I guess you could say it's nice to get that win."

The Rockets now take a seven-day break to focus on final exams before returning to the floor Dec. 20 at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville - the start of a season-long four-game road trip.

UT's next home game isn't until Jan. 6, when it takes on Northern Illinois in its Mid-American Conference opener.

Contact Zach Silka

at: zsilka@theblade.com.

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