So she heaved the ball toward the University of Toledo’s basket, even though she was well behind the 3-point arc on the left wing.
“I had my hand up, and I thought, ‘This [shot] is so off,’” Bowling Green State University’s Jillian Halfhill said.
Wrong. Shafir’s shot bounced off the backboard right into the basket for a back-breaking 3-pointer that helped propel the Rockets to a 48-38 win over their rivals at the Stroh Center on Sunday.
Shafir finished with 23 points in the win for Toledo, which now is 13-2 overall and 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
Halfhill scored 13 points, all in the second half, as the Falcons fell to 10-5 and 1-1.
Shafir’s 3-pointer was the perfect summation to a defensive struggle in which good shots came at a premium and both teams had more turnovers than made baskets.
Case in point: Bowling Green missed its first six shots before Chrissy Steffen made a 3-pointer with 14:59 left in the first half. And that basket cut the Falcons’ deficit in half because Toledo had committed five turnovers by that point.
“I thought both teams started out a little tight,” Falcons coach Jennifer Roos said. “When you try so hard, execute so well, and want the ball to go in so badly, you get a little tight.”
The difference-maker early was Shafir, who scored 13 of Toledo’s first 17 points. The Rockets’s lead reached 12 points when a basket by Brianna Jones made it 23-11 with 2:53 on the clock.
But a 3-pointer by Katrina Salinas and four points from Miriam Justinger keyed a 9-0 finish for the Falcons that made the score 23-20 at halftime.
The second half remained close, with neither team leading by more than four before Shafir’s back-breaking 3-pointer with 1:56 on the clock gave the Rockets a 40-34 lead.
“Hallelujah,” she said. “We’ve had enough bad ones go against us that it was finally like, ‘Thank you, God, we finally got one that fell.’ ”
What went through Roos’ mind?
“I can’t say it,” she said. “When she released it, I knew it was off. … And it banked in. You have to credit the kid for finding a shot when the shot clock went out.
“You could feel the air come out of our team [when she made that shot].”
Bowling Green did respond with a basket from Halfhill — a driving layup off the glass that wasn’t an easy shot, either. But on the Rockets’ next possession they ran a nifty screen where Andola Dortch found Lecretia Smith flaring to the basket for an easy layup, and UT made 6-of-8 free throws to close out the win.
“It was a read [by Dortch], but we knew we were coming back to the flare,” Cullop said. “They paid a lot of attention to Naama, and that's why Lecretia was open.”
While both teams struggled with their shooting — Toledo made just 17-of-51 field-goal attempts, or 33.3 percent, while Bowling Green connected on just 11-of-49, or 22.4 percent — the Rockets augmented their offense with 17 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Falcons 47-32.
“I really emphasized to our team that we needed to get on the glass, and we didn’t do a good job of that,” BG’s Roos said. “There were multiple possessions where we lost rebounds at the defensive end and had to play defense for a minute, and that gets tiring.”
As a result, Toledo was able to overcome 19 turnovers and bounce back from a tough loss at home to Central Michigan Thursday.
“I told the players before the game if we were going to lose a tough game [against Central Michigan], what better way to bounce back than to win a great game,” Cullop said. “It means that much more because it’s a great rivalry game.”
NOTES: Toledo’s Janelle Reed-Lewis was not in uniform for this contest after injuring her ankle in the Central Michigan game. … BG’s Jasmine Matthews did play against Toledo after missing Thursday’s game against Kent State with shin issues. Matthews played 11 minutes and had three points. … The crowd of 3,327 at the Stroh Center was the largest for a Bowling Green home game at the Stroh Center. The largest crowd for a women’s game at the Stroh Center came in last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the two first-round games — Florida versus Ohio State and Baylor against UC-Santa Barbara — attracted 4,205 to the two-year-old facility.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.