CLEVELAND - For a half, the University of Toledo women's basketball team's chances of advancing in the Mid-American Conference tournament looked a little dire.
The Rockets were tied at 30 with Ball State at intermission after committing 11 turnovers, shooting 43 percent (12-of-28), and allowing junior guard Ty'Ronda Benning to go off for 16 points.
"We just weren't playing our game," UT senior forward and co-captain Tanika Mays said. "We were letting things get out of hand."
Mays scored nine of her 14 points in the second half, when UT buckled down on defense to secure a 67-56 victory yesterday in a quarterfinal at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Rockets held Ball State to 33 percent (10-of-30) from the field after the break, while shooting 54 percent (13-of-24) and turning the ball over just
"We knew this was going to be a battle," UT coach Tricia Cullop said. "The defensive stops were the difference in the game."
Sophomore point guard Naama Shafir led the Rockets (23-7), who will take on Kent State in the MAC tournament semifinals at noon tomorrow, with 18 points and seven assists.
But it was the two offensive fouls she drew on the Cardinals late in the second half that proved to be vital in sealing UT's win.
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Shafir took a charge on Benning's drive to the basket with 6:17 remaining and then did the same to sophomore guard Patrice King two possessions later in the midst of the Rockets' 14-4 run that gave them a 67-51 advantage with 4:17 to play.
"They had really good drivers, and we knew what they could do," Shafir said of Ball State's guards. "I just listened to my coaches and tried to do what they told me, and they told me [the charges] were going to be there."
UT opened the second half with a 17-6 run behind two 3-pointers from junior guard Jessica Williams (nine points) and four points from junior forward Melissa Goodall, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"In the second half, we got back to our own game and started playing like we knew we could play," Mays said.
"At the beginning of the second half we started playing together and had a lot more energy," Shafir added. "We believed that we could do it."
As Ball State (14-17) continued to fade in the second half, the Rockets took advantage.
Benning wasn't able to add to her team-high scoring total in the final 20 minutes, while senior guard Audrey McDonald's 10 second-half points weren't enough.
"It wasn't our focus. It was fatigue," Ball State coach Kelly Packard said. "Our fatigue in the second half negated our containment and allowed Shafir to get to the basket."
And when Shafir didn't have a lane, she dumped the ball off to one of several options in the post for the Rockets, who still held their own down low despite missing senior forward Lisa Johnson. The senior forward and Northview graduate tore her ACL and MCL last week against Eastern Michigan and her playing career is over.
"We knew it could have gone either way if we didn't come out and play with emotion," Cullop said. "I thought in the second half our players were a lot more inspired than we were in the first half. I don't know if it was nerves coming into the tournament or what, but I thought we finally settled into the passionate play that has gotten us this far."
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For a half, the University of Toledo women's basketball team's chances of advancing in the Mid-American Conference tournament looked a little dire.