Bowling Green State University’s Jennifer Roos figures a coach over his or her career has one opportunity — two at the most — to admonish their team publicly.
Roos’ Sunday counterpart, University of Toledo’s Tricia Cullop, pulled out that card last week at a postgame news conference, administering a browbeating of her players following a 20-point home loss to Akron.
Cullop’s message, in which she threatened to bench starters and impugned her players’ pride, served as a warning sign to her team — also also to UT’s rival.
“We knew exactly what we were going to get today,” Roos said.
PHOTO GALLERY: BG women beat Toledo 66-59
Visibly motivated by Cullop’s critique, the Rockets hustled, defended, and scrapped. That they ended up falling short, by a count of 66-59, could be tolerated because of the effort.
BG won not because of better attitude but because of better execution and talent, which on this particular day left participants on either side in good spirits.
Making as many 3-point field goals as two-point field goals — nine each — enabled the Falcons to neutralize UT’s determination and snap the Rockets’ three-game stranglehold in the meeting of northwest Ohio foes. Alexis Rogers (22 points, 12 rebounds) made all three of her 3s in the second half, and her roommate, Deborah Hoekstra, hit two 3s in each half for 12 points.
Rogers, a 29 percent shooter from long range, found little room in the paint with which to maneuver and wisely moved back to spark BG’s 47 percent shooting half.
UT was no match from long distance, hitting 1 of 15 for a two-game total of 4 of 41.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Cullop said, flashing a smile that was absent Thursday after an 82-62 loss to Akron.
Unlike UT (9-11, 4-5 Mid-American Conference), which is measuring performances on desire and improvement, BG’s evaluation hinges on wins, of which the Falcons are stockpiling.
Despite 3 of 21 combined shooting by starters Jill Stein, Jillian Halfhill, and Erica Donovan, the Falcons improved to 18-3 overall (8-1) and maintained a one-game lead over Buffalo atop the East division.
Halfhill factored lightly until crunch time, driving to the bucket through contact from UT’s Inma Zanoguera for a three-point play and a 55-50 lead with 2 minutes, 34 seconds remaining. Halfhill, a 75 percent free throw shooter, made six more free throws to close with 11 points.
“If she doesn’t make her free throws it could be a different ending,” Roos said.
BG, which has won nine of 10, led the entire second half minus two instances in which UT’s Brianna Jones made a layup — the second resulting in a 42-40 advantage.
No one endured Cullop’s anger quite like the Central Catholic graduate Jones, who was benched to start the game in favor of freshman Janice Monakana. Jones was bad against Akron, incurring three early traveling calls and logging just 19 minutes. Her redemption effort was a strong one, consisting of 12 points, seven rebounds, and a warm remark from her coach.
“I thought she answered the challenge,” Cullop said. “She didn’t whine, she didn’t put her head down.”
Added Jones, whose benching lasted all of 79 seconds, “I definitely took it to heart. [Cullop] should not have had to question the team or me personally about our heart and our desire. Me being a senior, I should bring that intensity every single game.”
Zanoguera, who played the entire game, matched teammate Andola Dortch with 13 points a piece.
Trying to close to within three with 28 seconds left, Elena Alfredo’s misfired from deep on a good look — a familiar sight of late for the Rockets. Cullop says repetition and confidence are needed for her team to emerge from a shooting funk. For now, she’s just happy their attitude is better.
“We talked before the game how people are like tea bags; you put them in hot water and you find out what they’re made of,” she said. “We could have wilted, we could have been made of nothing and had no heart today. But we didn’t.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.