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Prior to Sunday’s game, Tricia Cullop tried to inspire her basketball team with the following message:
"Great teams show up every day."
As far as motivational speeches go, this one fell a little flat. Midway through the first half, Cullop’s University of Toledo squad had totaled eight turnovers, had blown numerous easy baskets, and trailed by six to a Western Michigan team that is among the weakest in the Mid-American Conference.
The Rockets regrouped, constructing a 19-0 run later in the half that set the tone for a 65-54 triumph in front of a home crowd that was in excess of 4,000 for the fourth straight game.
This one was often ugly, rarely pretty, but it counts as another win in a streak that now stands at seven. With another victory, which could come as soon as this week, Toledo (19-2, 7-1 Mid-American Conference) will notch its fourth straight season of 20 or more wins.
"We have to certainly show up with more minutes of intensity against Miami," Cullop said of a Wednesday road game against a solid RedHawks team.
Packaged with Central Michigan’s confounding 25-point loss at Bowling Green, Toledo is now tied with the Chippewas for the West lead. Minus several slip-ups in the next couple of weeks, a Feb. 24 meeting between the teams in Mount Pleasant will be significant.
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A sizzling finish to the first half ensured that Toledo, which missed its first six shots of the game, would take advantage of Central Michigan’s impending defeat. Trailing 16-10, the Rockets produced points on 10 of their next 12 possessions to embark on a 19-0 run. Also important: They had just one turnover in the final 10 minutes of the half, finishing on a 21-4 run.
"We were attacking more and getting the ball to where it needed to be, and we were just hitting shots," said Andola Dortch, whose 18 points were a game high.
A Naama Shafir layup brought the lead to 13 with a little more than three minutes to go before halftime.
"Pleased with the response we got from our team to go on that kind of run," Cullop said.
Western Michigan (6-15, 2-6) closed the half missing eight of its last nine shots and turning the ball over four times.
Dortch led four Rockets in double figures. Shafir, in her first game after setting a program record for assists, had 14 points and nine assists, and Inma Zanoguera had 11 points and matched Dortch with seven rebounds. Brianna Jones, playing extensively in lieu of foul-burdened Yolanda Richardson, notched her third double-digit scoring effort of the year with 10 points.
Miracle Woods led Western Michigan with 16 points, and Marquisha Harris had 12.
Northview’s Jessica Jessing logged 17 minutes off the bench for the Broncos and finished with four points and three boards. Both of her baskets — a layup and a jumper over UT’s Kyle Baumgartner — were followed by a noticeable applause from a smattering of locals sitting behind Western’s bench.
"I thought she gave them very good minutes for a freshman," Cullop said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.