Toledo's Kyle Baumgartner drives for two against Detroit's Yar Shayok. Baumgartner scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds coming off the bench for the Rockets, which will play Cincinnati on Monday.
Courtney Ingersoll thinks she knows why her University of Toledo teammate Kyle Baumgartner is playing her best basketball these days after a regular season filled with frustration.
"I really think she's playing well because I'm her roommate," Ingersoll quipped.
That can't be it, but given their closeness, Ingersoll probably has better insight than anyone why Baumgartner has suddenly become the type of player most expected UT was getting when she transferred two years ago.
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Performing like the All-Mid-American Conference player she was at Akron, Baumgartner performed brilliantly Friday in a 59-49 win over Detroit at Savage Arena, posting season highs in points and rebounds to propel the Rockets into the second round of the WNIT.
UT (22-9) will host Cincinnati, an overtime winner over visiting Duquesne, at 7 p.m. Monday.
Baumgartner, who never managed to find her groove in the regular season, posted 18 points and 13 rebounds off the bench and did what she could defensively against UD's physically imposing freshman Shareta Brown.
A crowd of 2,027 recognized her efforts, applauding every time she checked into the game. Ingersoll was happier than any of them.
"I think a lot of people don't understand the struggles to sit out a year and to come back and be ready to go right away," Ingersoll said. "She's playing great basketball, and what better time to pick it up when we're in the postseason?"
Baumgartner was instrumental down the stretch, hitting a pair of free throws with 6:02 remaining that gave UT a 45-44 lead it didn't relinquish. She grabbed an offensive rebound a little bit later and converted a three-point play. The dagger came with 1:55 left when Baumgartner snagged a missed free throw by Andola Dortch and passed to Dortch, who buried a baseline jumper to go ahead 56-45.
All the while, Baumgartner defended the excellent Brown, who owned the paint on her way to scoring 28 points on 10 of 20 shooting.
This was the fourth straight productive game for Baumgartner, beginning with a 14-point, eight-rebound effort at Ball State to close the regular season.
"It's a little hard to figure out exactly what your role is on a new team," she said. "It was more of an adjustment than I was expecting, which probably didn't help because I was a little startled for how long it took to get going."
Her ascent is starting to mirror that of UT's Yolanda Richardson, who found her way in last year's run to the WNIT title. Richardson only scored three points Friday, but she played solid help defense against Brown at the end.
"She's had some good games this year. There's no doubt about that," UT coach Tricia Cullop said of Baumgartner. "Sometimes it takes a while to get into a groove and get comfortable with your teammates."
Hurtful to UD (20-14) was its best shooter Senee Shearer sitting out after suffering an ACL injury last weekend in the Horizon League championship game. Her absence affected the Titans two fold. They were exhausted in crunch time, as two players logged 40 minutes and just six players saw extended action. Moreover, without the threat of Shearer hanging out on the perimeter, UT was able to send two and sometimes three defenders at Brown.
"We have other kids who make shots in practice, and they didn't step up today," UD coach Autumn Rademacher said.
Dortch battled foul trouble to score 12 points, and Ingersoll and Inma Zanoguera chipped in 10 apiece. Richardson recorded nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
UT was with its full complement of players for the first time in a month, as Brianna Jones returned from a concussion she suffered in the regular season finale.
"I can't wait to see if we can make a little run here because we do have the depth to be dangerous," Cullop said.
Having an effective Baumgartner won't hurt.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.