The University of Toledo women’s basketball team has an inside presence.
Brianna Jones though was outfitted in street clothes Saturday, the start to her senior season delayed by a stress fracture.
The Rockets also have an outside shooter.
Elena de Alfredo was sitting several feet away from Jones, her elbow confined to a protective brace.
Toledo did not have a viable contingency plan in either case, leading to a 65-52 setback to Drexel in the first round of the Glass City Tournament.
Play this game in a couple of weeks and perhaps an abled-bodied Toledo team reverses the result against last year’s champion in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. As it was, the match up was unfortunate for the Rockets who lacked a couple of key ingredients to attack a zone.
Drexel never needed to stray from its preferred defensive set, not with Toledo missing outside shots (4 of 21 on 3-pointers) and unable to run possessions through the high or low posts. A brutal 8 of 23 clip from the free-throw line completed the uneven unveiling of Tricia Cullop’s sixth team with the program.
“Hopefully we’ll never shoot this way from the free-throw line again in my lifetime,” said Cullop, who lost for just the 11th time at home.
Toledo, which had won its opener the past three seasons, will play Mississippi Valley State in the consolation game today at 2:30 p.m. Drexel will square off against 2012-13 NCAA tournament team Villanova, a 87-53 winner.
Returning to health cannot happen soon enough for Toledo, which played with just three bench players for the second game in a row (the other being Sunday’s exhibition win over Ashland). Jones, one of two true centers on the roster, is getting “very close,” to joining her teammates in uniform, Cullop said. The 6-foot-2 Jones will start when she returns, said Cullop, whose starting five consisted of only one six-footer.
Alfredo, a freshman who has elicited high praise around the program, is expected to come back after Jones returns. Another freshman shooter, Lindsay Baker, is dealing with a foot injury that kept her out of the contest.
“I still thought we could have won tonight with the kids we have, and we almost did,” Cullop said.
The 13-point margin is an inaccurate portrayal of a tight contest, one that which Toledo trailed by two after finalizing an 11-2 run with four-plus minutes left. Toledo’s warts — poor shooting, fatigue — started surfacing at that point. Freshman Olivia Braun, who made the score 50-48 on a put back with 4:23 left, missed two free throws later with a chance to close to within two again.
A 3-pointer by Drexel’s Meghan Creighton widened the gap to eight with two minutes to go before her teammate, Fiona Flanagan, knocked down her fifth 3 and caused a crowd of 3,672 to reach for their jackets.
Inma Zanoguera and freshman Janice Monakana scored 11 points a piece. Monakana, at 4 of 7, was the only Toledo player to shoot more than 50 percent from the line.
Drexel, which graduated its top three scorers from a 28-win team, got 19 points from Flanagan. Creighton poured in 15, and Rachel Pearson had 12.