BOWLING GREEN — The shot clock was running out, and Naama Shafir knew it.
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.
What did Toledo coach Tricia Cullop think after Shafir’s shot swished through the net?
“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.