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Published: Thursday, 3/8/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

UT, Ingersoll thirst for MAC crown

Rockets are 3rd seed in championship tournament

Courtney Ingersoll Courtney Ingersoll

The University of Toledo women's basketball team has accomplished just about everything worth mentioning in Courtney Ingersoll's four years.

A Mid-American Conference regular-season title, a Women's National Invitation Tournament title, multiple 20-win seasons: You name it, Ingersoll can claim it.

Except for winning a MAC tournament championship.

She will get one last chance to check that off of her list this week at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland where the third-seeded Rockets will begin their title push Thursday against No. 7 Northern Illinois. The third meeting this season between them is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. NIU advanced Wednesday with a 61-60 win over Akron.

"We always talk about leaving a legacy here. There would be nothing better for me to say we did something to build on what former members of the program helped establish," Ingersoll said. "It would be sweet to go back and say this is what you helped create."

UT (20-8) has sat idle since Feb. 28 -- nine days ago -- which has allowed reserve guard Janelle Reed-Lewis and reserve center Brianna Jones to recover from concussions. Coach Tricia Cullop was uncertain earlier this week of their availability for Thursday's game. Reed-Lewis, who missed the final four games of the regular season, participated in practice Tuesday without any restrictions. Jones, who was hurt against Ball State in the regular season finale, was held out of contact drills.

Their health is imperative to UT's title chances, Cullop said, adding that steering clear of foul trouble and making shots will also determine her team's success.

"I like the defensive effort our team has given, but I think the important thing is we have to stick shots all along the tournament because teams are going to be giving us their best shot," she said.

Whereas some are against it, Cullop is in favor of the MAC's new tournament format. UT and No. 4 Miami earned byes to the quarterfinals, and No. 1 Bowling Green and No. 2 Eastern Michigan sit still until Friday's semifinals. Cullop likes that this arrangement rewards teams that did well in the regular season and forces lower seeded teams to scramble in preparing for an opponent. Last year, Akron had two days to get ready for a quarterfinal meeting with No. 1 UT.

As NIU and Akron spent this week preparing for each other, UT focused on both of them. NIU plays a grind-it-out style that caused the Rockets a bit of struggle in UT's 49-39 win Feb. 25 at Savage Arena. UT won the first match up, 49-47, at NIU on Jan. 14.

The Huskies (14-16) prevailed Wednesday on a Kim Davis lay up with six seconds to go.

To advance to the championship game UT must do something it hasn't done since early last season -- beat Eastern Michigan. The Rockets have dropped three straight to EMU, including in last year's semifinal round. If they play again it will be at 2:30 p.m. Friday and the winner will advance to Saturday's championship. Getting past EMU will be paramount to Ingersoll topping off her career with that elusive tournament championship.

"You always want to do better than what was left before you, so that's what I want to leave as my legacy," Ingersoll said.

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