Riley McCormick is in the midst of a sizzling shooting stretch unlike at any point of her college career.
Which is news to her.
"I have no idea," the University of Toledo guard said. "It’s like golf. You don’t really say your score until the end."
Using that analogy, the senior is blazing through the front nine of her final season. Heading into the Glass City Tournament this weekend at Savage Arena — the first time the women’s program will host a tournament — McCormick has established herself as a reliable 3-point shooter the team seemed to be missing after the graduation last year of two crisp shooters.
After a forgettable opener in which she failed to score, the 5-foot-10 team captain began to set nets ablaze, knocking down at least one 3 in each of the four games since, and equaling her previous mark of 3s made in a year with nine.
This transformation does not register as a surprise to those familiar with McCormick’s work ethic, such as coach Tricia Cullop, who has long described the Cleveland native as a "gym rat."
"We’ve all been rooting for Riley all along," Cullop said. "When you see somebody that puts the time in, that works that hard, and is such a great person and a great shooter, you want to see her succeed."
If there was a light bulb moment that fueled McCormick’s ascent, it might have come in the second game of the season after the Rockets (4-1) lost at Dayton.
McCormick posted three points in three minutes, and after the game Cullop challenged her reserve guards to play better.
McCormick, who appeared in only 12 games last season, delivered. She converted three times from long distance the next time out, splitting team honors with 11 points in a win at Colorado State, and followed with a career-high 12 points — establishing a personal best with four 3s — in a triumph against Santa Clara in the opening round of a tournament in Reno.
Not counting that ugly showing in the opener when she misfired on five 3s against Arkansas State, McCormick is 9 of 18 from beyond the arc.
"Riley is one of those players that is always in the gym even when she wasn’t getting that many minutes," point guard Naama Shafir said. "I’m really happy for her that it’s finally paying off."
To what should her improvement be attributed? McCormick, a 25 percent 3-point shooter before the season, did not alter her shooting motion, nor did she up her work habits. Neither required any tuning. Her confidence, though, lagged behind the rest of her game.
"I had to look within," she said. "I was talking to other people and trying to get my confidence, but you can’t get it anywhere but from yourself. This year I’m aware of it and I don’t let little things bother me anymore."
Rockets fans today will get their first glimpse at McCormick since the opener when the team takes on SIU Edwardsville. This four-team invitational — the first of two the team will host this month — is the brainchild of former Toledo assistant Todd Mitmesser.
Rejected many times by coaches who did not want to play the Rockets at Savage Arena, where attendance ranked No. 28 in the nation last year and where the team is 58-8 in the last five seasons, Mitmesser sweetened the deal by offering an additional game. Southern and St. Bonaventure also will participate in the two-day event.
"It’s an excellent compliment," McCormick said. "The more we can scare people away and they start to learn that we are a great program, that will only build us for recruits and for the legacy of our school."
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