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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2011

UT tops BG at Anderson Arena for first time since 1999

BOWLING GREEN -- The University of Toledo women's basketball team ended a decade of frustrations at Anderson Arena Wednesday night.

The Rockets, who had not won here since 1999, used a strong defensive effort and a huge rebounding edge to claim a 66-65 win over Bowling Green before a crowd of 3,315 fans in the final meeting of the two teams at the old arena.

The raucous crowd was the largest for a women's game at "The House That Roars" since it was reconfigured to its current capacity of 3,500.

UT coach Tricia Cullop said the seeds for Wednesday's win were sown in a loss to the Falcons here two years ago.

"When I took the job, and we came here for the first time, that gave us a taste," she said. "Jessica [Williams] and Melissa [Goodall] were sophomores then, and they knew what this was going to be like.

"Our upperclassmen did a tremendous job of keeping our younger players focused when it got crazy - and it did."

Talk about crazy: UT, which had lost its previous six games at Anderson Arena, saw the Falcons creep to within a single point five times in the last seven minutes.

But the Rockets never allowed BG to take the lead and were rewarded with a win that improved to 14-6 overall, 6-1 in the Mid-American Conference.

The Falcons fall to 17-3, 5-2. Bowling Green's Jen Uhl, left, and Toledo's Yolanda Richardson chase a loose ball in last night's game. Uhl led the Falcons with 17 points. The Falcons fall to 17-3, 5-2. Bowling Green's Jen Uhl, left, and Toledo's Yolanda Richardson chase a loose ball in last night's game. Uhl led the Falcons with 17 points.
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BG (17-3, 5-2) and saw a couple of streaks end in the process. The Falcons had won 23 consecutive times on their home court before Wednesday night, not to mention claiming victories in 39 straight regular-season contests.

"I know how hard it is to win here, and you can't relax until the final seconds tick off that clock," Cullop said.

Naama Shafir led all scorers with 21 for Toledo, while Goodall had 15 and Williams 11. Bowling Green got 17 from Jen Uhl, 14 from Maggie Hennegan, and 11 from Lauren Prochaska.

In the first half Toledo used a strong defensive effort to build a 29-23 halftime lead. BG made just 11-of-29 shots from the floor (37.9 percent) and connected on just 1-of-6 3-pointers, falling behind by as many as 11 points.

"I don't think we were tight - I think Toledo's defense is that good," Falcons coach Curt Miller said. "I thought we did some things better late in the first half and in the second half, but their defense is fantastic."

Toledo also owned the boards, outrebounding BG 24-11 in the first half.

"[Rebounding] is part of playing a solid defensive possession," said Goodall, who finished with seven rebounds, second on the team to Start High School product Yolanda Richardson's nine. "Going to get the ball limits their opportunities, and it gives your [offense] opportunities too."

In the second half the Rockets blasted off to a quick start, scoring on six of their first seven possessions to lead 41-30 with 16:08 left.

The Falcons chipped away at the lead and trailed just 54-53 with 7:26 to play. But they never were able to take the lead as the Rockets always seemed to find a way to answer the challenge.

The last challenge came on a 3-pointer by Tracy Pontius - her only basket of the game - with 21.3 seconds to play that made it 63-62.

Shafir was fouled before the ball was inbounded, and after making the first free throw she missed the second. But Goodall grabbed the offensive board -- her fourth in the game -- was fouled and netted a pair of free throws that made it 66-62.

"When they left the door cracked open for us to potentially steal [the win], Goodall got the offensive rebound and made the foul shots," Miller said. "It was a back-breaking rebound."

Uhl made a 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left, but after Shafir missed two free throws Pontius wasn't able to cross half-court or take a shot before the final horn sounded.

"We tried to put pressure on them," Miller said. "I wonder what would have happened if we could have taken in a lead in the final minute?

"But they kept making big play after big play and never gave us a chance. Their stars stepped up."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481



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