YPSILANTI, Mich. — Forward Lecretia Smith picked up her second foul with about 13 minutes to play in the first half Tuesday, depriving the University of Toledo of one of its two best defensive players.
Less than three minutes later, Andola Dortch, the team’s other top defender and the only healthy point guard on the roster, joined Smith on the bench after absorbing her second foul.
This was, as UT coach Tricia Cullop described, the worst case scenario in a key road game at Eastern Michigan.
“What we could not have happen happened,” Cullop said.
As a result, this happened: Eastern Michigan 54, Toledo 33.
It wasn’t supposed to go down like this, as the Rockets, winners of 10 in a row coming into the night, hoped to wrest control in the West division of the Mid-American Conference and avenge a January loss to the Eagles.
The early foul trouble to Smith and Dortch was painful, but so were the turnovers (28), 3-point field goals (1 of 11), and offensive rebounds by EMU (15). The last time a UT team scored fewer than 33 points was November, 2004 — seven seasons ago — when the Rockets managed just 28 against Marquette.
“Considering how good we’ve been playing, it’s definitely an eye opener,” senior guard Courtney Ingersoll said. “It’s disappointing because you know what we’re capable of, we know what we’re capable of. To not go out and execute the game plan and not be able to score in the first half [and] second half is definitely disappointing and frustrating.”
Ingersoll will find it hard to roll out of bed Wednesday morning. If chasing around EMU’s lightning-quick guard Tavelyn James isn’t exhausting enough, Ingersoll was summoned into playing point guard when Dortch went to the bench. On most nights, reserve guard Janelle Reed-Lewis would have taken over, but she missed her second game recovering from a concussion.
Ingersoll shadowed James everywhere in the first half, mimicking her every slight move, and held the nation’s seconding-leading scorer to six points.
“But I think she wore down,” James said. “I can keep running all game, and I think after a while from running and running and trying to play defense and offense, she couldn’t do both — that hard, at least.”
The 5-foot-7 James squirted loose for several transition buckets in the second half, helping the Eagles (20-7, 12-2) extend a 10-point lead at the break to 15 by the 10:33 mark. She finished with 20 points — four fewer than her season average — and ran Ingersoll into the ground. As a result, Ingersoll, the nation’s leading 3-pointer shooter, didn’t have much spring to her step and made just 1 of 6 shots from beyond the arc for her only points of the game. She was on the court for all but one minute.
Aside from Yolanda Richardson (18 points, nine rebounds, six blocks) everyone played poorly for the Rockets (18-8, 11-3). Dortch turned the ball over eight times, as did Haylie Linn, who was 1 for 6 from the field.
“I’m in, short words, disgusted with our turnovers,” Cullop said.
With the loss, UT (18-8, 11-3) most likely won’t secure one of two automatic berths in the MAC semifinals. For that to happen, EMU must lose its two remaining regular season games or Bowling Green must lose two of three.
“I didn’t expect us to play as poorly as we did tonight based on what we had done the last 10 games, but Eastern’s a different kind of team than the teams we’ve played,” Cullop said. “They have a different style. They have great athleticism, great quickness. If you turn the ball over, good luck catching them.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.