Rockets secure at least part of 9th Mid-American Conference crown with 75-42 win at Western Michigan

3/2/2013
BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo's Andola Dortch tries to get by Western Michigan's Julia Henson. Dortch finished with 15 as the Rockets cruised to a win.
Toledo's Andola Dortch tries to get by Western Michigan's Julia Henson. Dortch finished with 15 as the Rockets cruised to a win.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In the first half, the University of Toledo women’s basketball team manhandled Western Michigan.

The Broncos seemed to find a certain spark in the early minutes of the second half, despite facing a double-digit deficit.

While it could have put some teams on their toes, the Rockets didn’t panic in a 75-42 win over the Broncos.

“It was just, calm down,” said Andola Dortch, whose team gave up the first four points of the second half Thursday at University Arena.

“We were starting to rush a lot of things and we got out of our way of playing.”

The Rockets needed only a few minutes to regroup.

Dortch led the Rockets with 15 points against the Broncos — including seven in the second half — to help Toledo win at least a share of the Mid-American Conference regular-season championship, their ninth in program history.

Toledo needs to win one of its final two games to win the MAC regular-season title outright. The Rockets (25-2, 13-1 MAC) host Eastern Michigan at 2 p.m. Sunday at Savage Arena, then close the regular season at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home against Ball State.

“Our focus is not to share it,” Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said of the 2012-2013 MAC title.

“We’d like to claim it outright and also make sure that we finish strong. As you head into the conference tournament, you kind of want to finish on a crescendo and make sure you’re fine-tuning anything you might need for the tournament.”

Shafir, who scored 13 points on her 23rd birthday, agreed with Cullop.

“It’s good now, to have the win and guarantee the share,” said Shafir, whose team won its 13th straight game. “But it’s not enough for us. We have two more games and we want to win both games.

"Now we focus on Sunday.”

Western Michigan (9-18, 5-9) took a fleeting 4-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes — the Rockets responded by scoring the next 21 points, including nine from Shafir.

Shafir finished with 11 first-half pointsand Lecretia Smith added 10 for Toledo, which led by as many as 27 in the first half.

Western Michigan went 7 for 24 from the floor in the first half, including 0 for 3 on 3-pointers.

“We tried to take away what they like to do, to force them to do things they’re not comfortable doing,” said Shafir, whose team led 44-17 at the half. “Have hands on their shooters, play good defense against their post players.

“When they came to [Toledo], their post players stepped up and did a really good job. That’s one of the things we worked on in practice. They have great shooters.”

Marquisha Harris led the Broncos with 11 points, with 10 in the second half.

After giving up the first four points of the second half, the Rockets maintained at least a 23-point lead through the remainder of the game, inflating their lead to 39 (73-34) with 5:27 left.

“We did the same things we did in the beginning,” Shafir said.

“Play good defense, get stops, and we did a pretty good job running in transition, getting good baskets and executing on offense.”

NOTES: Toledo center Yolanda Richardson scored six points against the Broncos to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in her career. Richardson currently has 1,005 points entering Sunday’s game against Eastern Michigan. … The Rockets finished 9 for 9 from the free-throw line against the Broncos … Jessica Jessing, a freshman forward from Northview, scored a point in 10 minutes off the bench for Western Michigan.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.