Toledo's Haylie Linn, drives inside against Northern Illinois' Alicia Johnson. The senior scored 14 points in what was likely her last game at Savage Arena. Linn had three 3-pointers to help the Rockets improve to 19-8 overall.
University of Toledo seniors Courtney Ingersoll and Haylie Linn have played their final basketball games inside of Savage Arena.
They hope so, anyway.
Linn scored 14 points, and Ingersoll posted a solid all-around game to lead the Rockets to a 49-39 triumph over Northern Illinois on Saturday. With the win, UT secures at least the third seed in next month's Mid-American Conference tournament.
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A crowd of 4,628 showed up in part to send off Linn and Ingersoll, taking in a pregame ceremony that included highlight packages of each that were shown on the scoreboard. Should UT win the MAC tournament, Saturday will be the last time the seniors competed in a game at home.
Of course, the Rockets had a string of home dates on their way to winning last season's WNIT, so a postseason home date is still possible.
"It's kind of mixed emotions," Linn said. "It's the last game, so it's kind of sad, but it's still a lot of fun on senior night."
UT (19-8, 12-3) struggled often in its first game since Tuesday's 21-point loss at Eastern Michigan, shooting 34 percent from the field and allowing 16 offensive rebounds. Two Linn 3-pointers gave UT a 12-11 lead, and Ingersoll hit a 3 with 1:08 to go in the first half to boost the advantage to 26-19.
Ingersoll finished with a stat line consisting of seven points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots, and three steals. Linn knocked down three 3s, bouncing back from a 1-for-6 shooting night against Eastern Michigan.
"It's a good exclamation point on my career and Haylie's career," Ingersoll said. "It ended well, ended how we wanted it to."
The regular season comes to a close Tuesday with a trip to Ball State. If UT wins that game and Bowling Green loses that same evening at Kent State, the Rockets will bump BG from the No. 2 seed. As it is, UT will bypass the first two rounds of the conference tournament and wait for an opponent to play in the quarterfinals. The top two seeds secure automatic berths in the semifinals.
Either accomplishment seemed unlikely in late November when the Rockets were forced to regather themselves after their star point guard Naama Shafir suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
"I'm extremely proud of them," Cullop said after her team won for the 11th time in 12 tries. "I know there's a lot of people who would have counted us out. It talks to the resiliency of our team. People like Courtney and Haylie and Yolanda [Richardson] and Andola [Dortch] really stepped up, and they've filled the void that we had early on. Slowly but surely, we figured it out."
UT broke away from the Huskies in the second half with a 10-0 run that began with a Linn 3 at 17:34 and ended with Dortch (12 points) converting twice on a trip to the free-throw line at 12:36. A Dortch 3 a few possessions later pushed the lead to 18 -- the largest of the evening.
"We know we're a better team than we played like against Eastern," Linn said. "We want to build some momentum going into the MAC tournament. That's what our goal was."
Playing their third straight game without leading scorer Claire Jakubicek, the Huskies (12-15, 6-9) shot just 28 percent from the field. Kim Davis led them with 14 points, including 12 in the second half.
REED-LEWIS UPDATE: UT reserve guard Janelle Reed-Lewis missed her third straight game after suffering a concussion Feb. 15 at Central Michigan. Cullop said Saturday was the first day Reed-Lewis has felt good and the medical trainers wanted to wait 24 hours before clearing her to play.