THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Image
Yesterday's 65-41 victory over Western Michigan was special because it gave the University of Toledo women's basketball team its 11th straight win at Savage Arena, something no team has accomplished since the 2002-03 season.
But it was special for many other reasons as well with UT hosting "Rockets for the Cure" day to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Northwest Ohio.
Survivors of breast cancer were honored during the game, and at least one person in the crowd of 4,225 was battling the disease.
"One of our Igniters, which is our support group for women's basketball, just got diagnosed with cancer," UT coach Tricia Cullop said. "She just found out in the past couple weeks. It hits home. Everybody in the stands probably knows one person or two people or maybe somebody in their family that has cancer."
UT senior co-captain Lisa John-son said that grim news gave the Rockets (20-5, 10-2 Mid-American Conference) an even greater motivation to perform well.
"We just found out about that a couple days ago, so it kind of made this game a little more special and a little closer to our hearts, because we actually know someone [who is fighting the disease]," said Johnson, who had 12 points to post her third straight game in double figures.
"It affects so many people in this community, so I think it's really great that we get to show our support by having a game like this."
After the game, UT's pink uniforms were auctioned, with a few of the jerseys collecting $1,000 or more from bidders.
A raffle also was held throughout the game, with numerous pieces of sports memorabilia up for grabs, and a majority of the fans in attendance were decked out in pink to show their support.
"I'm so pleased with the crowd that came out today," Cullop said. "What a tremendous cause to support."
Playing without senior co-captains Tanika Mays (knee) and Allie Clifton (foot) for the second straight game, the Rockets proved to be up to the challenge once again.
Fresh off her 27-point, seven-assist performance in a win over Akron on Wednesday, sophomore point guard Naama Shafir tallied a game-high 19 points and seven assists against Western Michigan (7-18, 2-10) and exited to a standing ovation with 2:21 left in the contest.
Junior guard Jessica Williams added 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Williams' two 3-pointers in the first 3:01 of the second half gave the Rockets a big 41-23 advantage, and they rolled from there.
"Coach was talking about jumping out on them early in the second half and not to give them confidence," Williams said.
"My teammates just saw me open and I just knocked them down, [but] for sure that gave us a boost."
UT freshman center Yolanda Richardson narrowly missed out on her second career double-double, finishing with nine first-half points and 10 rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end.
Freshman forward Lecretia Smith also grabbed 10 boards, as the Rockets outrebounded Western Michigan 44-27.
Furthermore, UT held the Broncos to a paltry 24.5 shooting percentage.
Junior guard Kemmy Dominique was WMU's only scorer in double figures with 13 points.
"At this point in the season, we understand that defense wins games," Johnson said. "And yes, the pink jerseys and the great offense and the great plays bring everybody in here to support us, but defense is what won that game."
Contact Zach Silka at: