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The revenge tour for the University of Toledo continues to spin.
Opponents that were fortunate enough last season to score a win over the short-handed Rockets better be on high alert heading into their rematch, this made obvious Saturday after Toledo obliterated Milwaukee at Savage Arena in women’s basketball.
Just as they did one month ago against Arkansas State, the Rockets headed into the day with vengeance on their minds and cruised to an 83-59 decision in front of the largest crowd — 4,034 — to turn out for a home game this season.
In improving to 7-1 overall, Toledo sprinted out to a 27-point lead at halftime — this despite center Yolanda Richardson sitting for the final 18 minutes because of foul trouble — and looked every bit the team that is expected to win the Mid-American Conference title.
Last December, as the Rockets were trying to unite after a season-ending injury to point guard Naama Shafir, they blew a 16-point lead in the second half at Milwaukee.
It did not sit well with them.
“Obviously you always want to beat the team that beat you last year,” said Andola Dortch, one of four Rockets starters to score in double figures. “There’s always that momentum that’s carrying you into the game, as far as knowing they did this to you last year and you don’t want the same thing to happen again.”
Marquette, whom the Rockets will visit on Saturday, can expect to encounter a determined opponent. The Golden Eagles left Savage Arena on New Year’s Eve last year with a nine-point win, capitalizing on Shafir’s absence and an ankle injury to Dortch.
“If you know that the team you’re facing beat you last year, it’s extra motivation,” Inma Zanoguera said.
Richardson, who played only 14 minutes and contributed five points, was Toledo’s only starter to not score in double figures. Shafir posted a season-high 19 points to lead a multi-pronged attack that included Zanoguera (12), Lecretia Smith (11), and Dortch (10).
Richardson sitting on the bench invoked memories of last year’s 60-57 loss at Milwaukee in which the center fouled out after five minutes of action.
“I thought we were on track to do the same thing in the first half,” coach Tricia Cullop said.
The Rockets still managed to put together a brilliant opening 20 minutes. In shooting 55 percent from the field and inducing 15 turnovers, including 10 steals, they built a 52-25 lead at the break. If they had shot better from the free-throw line — 7 of 13 — there would have been nothing of which to gripe.
“I can’t complain how we’re playing right now,” said Dortch, who contributed two steals and six assists. “We can always get better, but I can say I love how we’re playing right now.”
If this revenge tour continues, and the Rockets can top Marquette, they will match the 8-1 start posted by the 1996-97 team.
Angela Rodriguez made three 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 13 points for Milwaukee (4-5).
NOTES: A pregame banner and ring ceremony honored last year’s team that won a share of the MAC West title and advanced to the Elite Eight of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Cullop arranged for the ceremony to be this late into the season so it could include Haylie Linn, a senior on the team who is now a graduate assistant manager for Milwaukee ... Toledo associate head coach Vicki Hall is recruiting internationally and missed the game. Cullop would not reveal Hall’s whereabouts because “I don’t want to send other recruiters there. But I hope she brings home who she’s going to see.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.