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At 8:30 a.m. Sunday the University of Toledo women’s basketball team gathered to watch a replay of the Rockets’ first game of the new season.
One cut featured highlights of the the day before, a loss to Drexel in the first round of the Glass City Tournament. The other showed miscues, ones coach Tricia Cullop will have to live with adjusting to a rebuilt team light on experience and — for now anyway — even lighter on depth.
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Progression is the theme to this early slate of games, and a 95-48 dusting of Mississippi Valley State revealed growth over a 24-hour period.
Albeit against a weaker opponent, Toledo made strides on offense, defense, and certainly at the free-throw line from a season opener Cullop likened to a child touching a hot stove.
“You say don’t touch it, it’s hot, and they walk over and touch it,” she said. “Same thing with young players on your team. You say don’t do something, but until they do it in a game and learn it’s really bad, they’re going to do it. That first game they learned a lot of things that were hot stove issues for us.”
The 95 points scored are the most by the Rockets under Cullop, who believes this group team have as much offensive firepower as any of her previous five. They scored 42 points in the paint and 27 at the line. All that kept her team from eclipsing 100 points was a meager 4 of 20 clip from behind the 3-point line.
You’ll have to go back 21 seasons to find the last time before Sunday the Rockets produced six double-digit scorers, a remarkable feat considering only eight players dressed. One of those who fell short of the threshold was Janice Monakana who missed a scantly-contested lay up in the closing minutes and finished with nine points.
Inma Zanoguera, the only Rocket to be named to the all-tournament team, matched her career-high with 24 points and established a new best with 16 rebounds. She was 12-for-12 from the line, lifting her team from a horrible 8 of 23 effort a day earlier.
“I’ll take that compared to yesterday’s percentage any day,” said Cullop, who was left unsatisfied still by 27 of 40 accuracy.
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Cullop said her team against Drexel sometimes got lost on defense, closing too late to help against dribble penetration. A day later she appreciated the "effort and intensity and desire to stay attuned." The Devilettes scored 13 second-half points and shot 30 percent from the field.
Falling in line behind Zanoguera was Stephanie Recker, who played an energetic second half to notch career highs with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Recker’s progress from game one — “She was frustrated,” Cullop said — to game two was emblematic of the team.
“Finding scoring opportunities for Steph is going to be paramount for our team to be successful,” Cullop said.
Recker corralled five of her team’s 22 offensive rebounds. In total, the Rockets had 61 rebounds, marking the first time since 1990-91 they grabbed more than 60.
Freshman center Sophie Reecher scored 12 points — the second straight day a freshman finished in double figures — as did Andola Dortch. Ana Captosto (11) and Janelle Reed-Lewis (10) also got involved in the offense’s surge.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way my teammates responded, the way the coaching staff approached this game, and the energy we had today from the beginning,” said Zanoguera, who scored her 20th point with five minutes left before halftime.
Villanova won the tournament, beating Drexel 63-52. Joining Zanoguera on the tournament team were Villanova’s Devon Kane and most valuable player Emily Leer.
The Drexel duo of Meghan Creighton and Fiona Flanagan, who combined for 34 points against Toledo, were honored, as was Mississippi Valley State’s Jasmyne Sanders.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.