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Published: Friday, 3/12/2010

Rockets women focused on shot in championship game

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - This is usually the spot in the journey where the ride comes to a stop and the University of Toledo women's basketball team is forced to disembark.

The Rockets take on Kent State at noon today in the Mid-American Conference tournament semifinals, a round they've advanced past just once since the they won the whole thing in 2001.

Last year, UT defeated Ohio 77-70 in the quarterfinals before losing 79-66 to Bowling Green.

"Of course we want to do better than we did last year," UT senior forward and co-captain Tanika Mays said. "We feel like our season ended too early last year, and this year we have something to prove to everybody, as well as ourselves."

As the preseason favorite to win the MAC West Division, the Rockets (23-7) have already delivered on part of that prognostication.

But the other half is the expectation that they would be there at the end contending for a MAC tournament title and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

A shaky first half in a 67-56 win over Ball State Wednesday in the quarterfinals left some doubt whether UT would be up for the challenge.

The Rockets committed 11 turnovers in the half and were outrebounded 21-14.

"We weren't playing as passionately and intensely as we should have," UT coach Tricia Cullop said. "It was frustrating, because we had talked about limiting their interior play but we weren't doing it."

But the Rockets dispelled any ill feelings by putting the Cardinals away with a dominant defensive performance in the final 20 minutes.

Ball State shot just 33 percent from the field after the break and was forced into eight turnovers.

"Our effort and intensity was so much better," Cullop said. "It was a very physical game and it was called very loose. So we talked about the fact that we needed to stop making excuses.

"In the first half when we talked about why we didn't execute something, I kept hearing an excuse. I just told them I didn't want to hear any more excuses. Let's just do it."

And down the stretch, "instead of making excuses we found solutions," Cullop said.

The Rockets will again need to find solutions this afternoon against the Golden Flashes (20-9), who defeated UT 62-59 in Kent on Feb. 3 in their only other meeting this season.

Otherwise, this trip will come to an abrupt halt like so many others.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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