The NCAA this year is letting college basketball teams pay for their players to go home for Christmas, a gesture the University of Toledo women are happy to accept.
Two Rockets flew to Spain on Sunday evening. Another boarded a plane to London.
That each of Toledo’s players will celebrate the holidays at home is a warming thought, especially since they aren’t doing much celebrating at their other home. The Rockets in an 87-75 loss to Dayton suffered their fourth defeat of the season at Savage Arena, a concern for a program with a reputation for making visitors uncomfortable in their gymnasium.
For years coach Tricia Cullop had veteran teams that scared away quality programs from coming to Toledo. Now good teams are coming, and the results aren’t pretty.
PHOTO GALLERY: UT women lose to Dayton 87-75
Dayton, not unlike Purdue and Drexel, and to a lesser degree Valparaiso, steamrolled a young Toledo team struggling to defend and struggling to stay healthy. The Flyers, whose 5-4 record weakly reflects their considerable talent level, led the entire way despite an uneven performance marred by 23 turnovers.
Toledo (5-5 overall) is 2-4 at Savage Arena, matching the number of home defeats suffered by the 2011-12 team. No other Cullop-led squad has lost more than two home games in a season.
“The one thing you’re going to find out when you play very high quality teams — which we’ve played a lot of in our nonconference — is you can’t have moments of unfocused opportunities,” Cullop said. “We had too many of those in the first half.”
Most glaring was the Rockets’ failure to take advantage of Dayton miscues. The Flyers, whose uptempo pace led to carelessness, turned the ball over 16 times in the first half but entered the break ahead 36-25.
“Coach said at halftime, the only good news is we weren’t down 20,” Inma Zanoguera said. “She was right.”
Zanoguera, one of two Spaniards heading home for Christmas, scored 20 points for the third time this year and added eight rebounds. Two of her four assists came during a 7-0 run that cut the deficit to seven — 63-57 — with 6:44 to go. The hole had grown to as many as 18. Brianna Jones, who did not start the game after sitting out most of the week with a knee injury, made two baskets during the surge.
Toledo never got closer, as consecutive 3-pointers by Dayton’s Amber Deane and Kelley Austria pushed the Flyers’ lead to 12.
Dayton, who entered the contest averaging about 85 points, overcame its sloppiness by shooting 46 percent. A diverse attack featured 38 points in the paint — an exploitation of an undersized Toledo interior — and 22 of 28 efficiency from the free-throw line.
Adding to the Rockets’ defensive misfortunes was the scant participation of Andola Dortch.
The two-time Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year logged only 18 minutes before fouling out.
“I wasn’t counting on that,” Cullop said. “I was counting on 39.”
Dortch, who entered the day leading the nation in assist to turnover ratio, posted her first negative numbers: three assists, four turnovers.
Missing her fourth game with a back injury was usual starter Stephanie Recker. Toledo has yet to play a game with a full complement of players.
Andrea Hoover, who had 22 points a year ago when the Flyers dealt Toledo its first of four losses, nailed three 3s to finish with 23 points. Austria scored 19 points. Deane contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds — six offensive. Ally Malott totaled 15 points and 13 boards.
“Four people will box out and it’s the fifth one [to miss an assignment],” Cullop said. “We’re getting there. Early in the season you could have caught three of the five not boxing out. Now it’s one.”
Following a win last week at St. Bonaventure in which Toledo’s bench was scoreless, Jones finished with 12 of the reserves’ 19 points. In Jones’ place, freshman Sophie Reecher made her first start.
Ana Capotosto scored 12 points. Janelle Reed-Lewis finished with 11 points on 4 of 17 shooting.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.