No matter the outcome of Saturday's rivalry basketball game between the women's teams at University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University, talk will shift immediately to a possible rematch.
In fact, those thoughts already are bouncing around the minds of the players.
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"There's a good chance we could see them in the [Mid-American Conference] tournament," UT senior guard Courtney Ingersoll said this week.
Tip-off is set for noon at Savage Arena in the first of perhaps two meetings between the preeminent programs in the MAC.
Given the many wins and championships UT and BG have accumulated under their current coaching staffs, there's a feeling of emptiness when they don't meet for a second time in the league tournament. It has happened only once in the past three seasons.
Last season Eastern Michigan upset UT in a semifinal matchup to derail an all-northwest Ohio final. BG went on to beat EMU in the title game and advance to the NCAA tournament. UT rebounded from its loss just fine, winning six straight games to capture the WNIT championship.
"What you have to give Toledo credit for is that they haven't built a team to win just this year -- they have built a program," BG coach Curt Miller said. "[UT coach] Tricia Cullop has done a great job there. They have put themselves in a position to be a dominant team in the MAC."
BG (20-3, 10-0) is having a typical season under Miller, having won 13 straight dating to the middle of December to take a three-game lead in the East division. A win Saturday will assure the Falcons of a top-four finish in the MAC regular season standings, meaning they'll get to bypass the first two rounds in the tournament and advance to the quarterfinals. After a 1-2 start to MAC play, UT (15-7, 8-2) has rattled off seven straight wins and is hoping, at some point, to break a tie with co-leader Eastern Michigan in the West. The teams have been deadlocked atop the standings since Jan. 22 when BG crushed the visiting Eagles by 16 points to deal them their second league loss.
"We're the leader in the East, they are the leader in the West, so this is a big game," BG senior Jessica Slagle said.
UT went into BG's Anderson Arena last year and walked away with a 66-65 decision, scoring its second straight regular season win over the Falcons. In total, Cullop is 2-3 against BG in four years as UT's coach, with two of those losses coming in her first season. The Rockets prevailed 66-63 the last time the teams met at Savage Arena two years ago.
"It's always crazy up there -- and I absolutely love it," Slagle said. "They'll have five or six thousand people up there, and what a great atmosphere to play in. I'm thankful for the opportunity to go up there and play in an environment like that. It's fun. It's what college basketball is about."
Cullop said the biggest difference between the teams this season is their preferred way of scoring. BG wants to drive to the basket. UT's offense is predicated more on passing to open shooters, apparently because the team's best driver, guard Naama Shafir, is out for the season with an ACL injury. Miller views his team as being more consistent, "but when Toledo plays its 'A' game they are the better team."
UT, which hasn't lost a game in one month, has been fueled by big performances recently from Ingersoll, who is coming off of back-to-back 20-point performances. She ranks third in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (45.9) and is averaging 12 points. Point guard Andola Dortch (13.3) and center Yolanda Richardson (10.4) also average double figures in scoring.
For BG, Chrissy Steffen (14.0), Alexis Rogers (12.0), and Slagle (11.8) shoulder the bulk of the scoring load.
"Alexis Rogers is a beast at the power forward position, so it's going to be a fun matchup with her and Yolanda and [UT forward Lecretia Smith]," Ingersoll said.
Another key matchup is the one between the coaches. Miller has found matching wits with Cullop to be enjoyable because it challenges him mentally. For Cullop, she's hoping she'll get to engage in another chess match with Miller next month at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
"There's a lot of excitement and natural anticipation for this game, so yeah, we get excited for this game," Cullop said. "But in the whole scheme of things, this one doesn't matter as much as the one that will happen in the conference tournament, if we do face them."
Blade sports writer John Wagner contributed to this report.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.