A long and exhausting season is approaching the finish line. Temperatures are touching the 80s. This isn't the preferred postseason tournament.
There are numerous reasons why the University of Toledo women's basketball team might want to pack it in and fade into the offseason. Those tugs aren't strong enough, though, because the Rockets are still having a ball.
In building a 26-point halftime lead Monday, UT looked like a team still very interested in extending its season, which it did with a 72-51 win over Cincinnati in the second round of the WNIT.
Senior Courtney Ingersoll set career highs with 24 points and six 3-pointers, and Yolanda Richardson, in a rare appearance coming off the bench, totaled 14 points and six rebounds.
A crowd of 2,120 saw UT win its eighth straight in the WNIT dating to the beginning of last year's championship run. Next up for the Rockets (23-9) is another home game Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth at 7 p.m.
"Who know's what's going to happen the next couple of weeks, but we can certainly control how hard we play," UT coach Tricia Cullop said. "The one thing I reminded them of is the teams that are playing right now, yeah, it's about execution, but a lot of it is, do you really care about each other? Do you want to fight tooth and nail for everything that's happening so you can continue to play? The answer in our locker room is yes."
This one got out of hand in a hurry. UC (16-16) couldn't make the most makable of shots early on, while Ingersoll, conversely, banked home a 3-pointer to begin her assault of the basket from long range. After Andola Dortch threw up a prayer from well beyond the arc that bounced up and down a few times before falling in, UT headed to halftime with a 37-11 advantage.
UC's 11 first-half points were the fewest UT has allowed this season. The Bearcats shot just 4-of-26 (15 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes and 0-for-9 on 3s.
"It's definitely fun when you can shut a Big East team down like that," Ingersoll said.
Center Kyle Baumgartner started for just the third time -- a reward of sorts for her 18-point, 13-rebound effort in Friday's win over Detroit -- and snagged six boards to go along with four points.
"I think it inspired Yolanda to bring an even better effort today," Cullop said.
Dortch posted 13 points and seven assists, and freshman Inma Zanoguera made several hustle plays, including pulling down three of UT's 16 offensive rebounds.
Ingersoll, the NCAA leader in 3-point shooting percentage, nailed 3s on consecutive possessions early in the second half to expand the lead to 48-24. Her final 3, on a 3-on-1 fast break, stemmed a slight push by the Bearcats and made the score 60-42 with 5:25 left.
"I think every once in a while a player has a game like that where they feel like they can throw something up and it's going to fall in," Ingersoll said. "It was wide as the ocean."
Ingersoll recently was invited to participate in a 3-point shooting contest March 29 in New Orleans. It's a great opportunity, she said, but she hasn't given it much consideration because she hopes she won't have to go. A matchup in the WNIT semifinals would conflict with that invitation.
"Hopefully we're going to be playing here in Savage instead of me being down in New Orleans," Ingersoll said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.