Toledo senior Andola Dortch shoots over Ohio's Jasmine Weatherspoon during the opening round of the MAC tournament at Savage Arena. Dortch led the Rockets with 13 points and six assists.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
Elena de Alfredo was aching to hear the sound of a referee's whistle.
The University of Toledo freshman guard turned her ankle Monday late in a 61-44 thrashing of Ohio University and motioned to her team’s bench for a replacement.
PHOTO GALLERY: UT Rocket women win 1st round
A minute, maybe two, passed before play stopped, so de Alfredo was forced to limp up and down the court several times.
Her ankle should be fine, she said, for a second-round matchup with Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference tournament. She is hoping her jump shot will also be healthy come 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Billed as an outside threat when Toledo plucked her from Spain last year, de Alfredo is validating her reputation after a shaky start. She made two 3-pointers last week in a senior night win over Eastern Michigan and added three more Monday to break open a contest that was never competitive.
De Alfredo drained three 3s in a span of 2 minutes, 18 seconds, helping to build a 15-point lead that grew to 19 by halftime. She didn’t take another shot the rest of the night and still matched her season high for 3s. Her four rebounds also marked a personal best.
“I was waiting for this day because I’m a shooter,” de Alfredo said.
The win was the most decisive of UT’s three victories over OU (9-21), featuring virtually no suspense unlike two and four-point nail-biters in the regular season. UT led by as many as 27 points with nine minutes to go and never trailed. Andola Dortch led with 13 points and six assists, and Janelle Reed-Lewis had 11 and five in those categories.
The Bobcats, who finished coach Bob Boldon’s first season by dropping 14 of 15, could have used Alfredo on their side. Content to hoist outside shots against UT’s 2-3 zone, they missed 14 3s to start and 29 of their first 31. In the end, OU tried 39 shots from outside, making seven. Mariah Byard, a 35 percent 3-point shooter, was 0 for 8. Kiyanna Black, the team’s top scorer, missed her first nine attempts.
UT coach Tricia Cullop figured the Bobcats, who played at Miami two days earlier, “probably had some good bus legs going on.”
Cullop employed the zone almost exclusively to prevent OU from involving Toledo’s centers in flare screen activity.
“I’d rather not guard that with the lineup we have,” she said.
With another win, Toledo (15-15) will finish no worse than .500, ensuring Cullop doesn’t end on the losing side of the won-loss column for the first time since 2003- 04 — her fourth season at Evansville. The sixth-year Toledo coach is heading to Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena with grander ideas, reminding everyone “there’s not a team in the league we can’t play with.” The Rockets, seeded sixth, are 1-6 against teams seeded higher than they are but have kept it close with all of them except for third-seeded Akron.
Toledo is 0-2 against its next opponent, seventh-seeded Western Michigan, which escaped Savage Arena on Feb. 23 with a 60-59 decision. De Alfredo played six minutes that day and had two points. The next game, at Northern Illinois, she did not play for the first time when healthy, as Cullop had apparently grown tired of de Alfredo’s defensive struggles. In the four games since she’s 6 of 11 shooting from distance — a far prettier clip than the 0 for 7 clunker she registered on two occasions in MAC play.
“When you’re a shooter you can have those days,” de Alfredo said. “Even though you’re trying hard you can’t make a shot.”