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There’s a good chance Stephanie Recker will never forget her first start with the University of Toledo women’s basketball team.
Her recollections of that first start may have something to do with the Rockets 82-45 demolition of Kent State Saturday, and her career-high nine points probably will be a factor too.
But the sophomore from Pandora-Gilboa High School said that, when you roll those factors in with a crowd of 5,712 fans at Savage Arena — the fourth-largest crowd for a women’s game in school history — the result is an enduring memory.
“It’s so unexplainable, the feeling of playing in front of 5,700 people screaming for us — it’s the best feeling you can ever get,” Recker said.
There was plenty to scream about as the Rockets easily cruised to their 10th consecutive victory. All 12 players scored and no one played more than 24 minutes for Toledo (22-2 overall, 10-1 Mid-American Conference).
Inma Zanoguera and Ana Capotosto led the way with 10 points each for UT, while Recker and Janelle Reed-Lewis each had nine. Yolanda Richardson and Brianna Jones had eight apiece, with Jones tying her career high with nine rebounds.
Tamzin Barroilhet scored 10 points to lead Kent State (3-21, 1-10).
PHOTO GALLERY: UT women defeat Kent State
During the week the Rockets learned that Lecretia Smith would miss this contest to attend the funeral of her grandfather. So UT coach Tricia Cullop opened up a competition for Smith’s spot in the starting lineup.
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“I was really proud of Stephanie Recker,” Cullop said. “Not only did she earn the spot, but she came out and gave us great minutes.
“She out-hustled every other player [in practice]. She really executed well.
“She is a player we would love to give more minutes to because she has so much potential.”
Recker hit a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game to get the Rockets rolling, but her final line also included four rebounds and three assists.
“I knew I had to have good practices during the week [to earn the job],” she said. “Filling Lecretia’s shoes is a big thing to do because she does a lot for the team. I knew I’d have to step it up if I was going to take her place.”
Recker said she and her teammates had no trouble focusing on a contest against one of the worst women’s teams in the MAC.
“Every game is a big game, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Recker said. “You always have to play as if it’s going to be the biggest game of the season, and that’s what we did.”
If probably wasn’t the biggest game, but it was the game that was over the quickest. Toledo raced to a 28-2 advantage in the first nine minutes as Kent State committed 12 turnovers in that span while the Rockets made 13-of-21 shots (61.9 percent).
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“Our intensity on defense created deflections and steals that led to offensive opportunities on the other end,” Cullop said. “Our players enjoy getting out and running the fast break, and they got some early opportunities to put some easy points on the board.
“That gave us even more fire to play great defense.”
The Rockets forced 17 turnovers in the first half and led Kent State by as many as 33 before settling on a 45-19 halftime advantage.
UT then scored the first seven points of the second half and never led by less than 30 points after that. The Rockets led by as many as 45 late in the rout, but Cullop said there still were things her team can work on.
“There are things in this game we could to a lot better — we had a lot of turnovers, and we could shoot better from the free-throw line,” she said.
“But I like that everybody who came in scored, and everybody that came in did something positive for the team.”
NOTES: The Rockets wore pink uniforms as part of their annual “Rockets for the Cure” event. The event raised funds for breast cancer research. … Saturday’s win was the 100th for UT’s senior class of Kyle Baumgartner, Riley McCormick, Richardson, Naama Shafir, and Smith. The group needs one more win to tie the school record set by the 1995-99 class.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.