When the University of Toledo offense was misfiring late in the game, the Rockets dug in on the defensive end and got the stops they needed in a 72-66 win over Ball State on Wednesday at Savage Arena.
Toledo allowed just one Cardinals field goal over the final three-plus minutes of the game and in doing so earned its 15th straight home win and a key head-to-head victory over a Mid-American Conference West foe.
“We had to get stops,” UT coach Tricia Cullop said. “Last game we had to finish it with defensive stops to beat Northern Illinois. That’s the nice thing about this team is that we can get those stops when we need to. We can put the lineup in that can get the stop and you have to be able to count on that. You never know how the game is going to end, whether you are down on transition or you need to score. I think we have the ability to win the game on either end.”
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Toledo's Jada Woody (35) and Sarah St-Fort celebrate after the Rockets defeated Ball State Wednesday at Savage Arena.
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Kaayla McIntyre led Toledo (13-5, 4-2 MAC) with 15 points, Mariella Santucci and Sara Rokkanen added 12 points each, and Mikaela Boyd chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double in six games.
Destiny Washington paced Ball State (14-3, 3-3 MAC) with 19 points and Moriah Monaco added 17 points.
Ball State tied the game on two occasions, but never led. With 3:07 left to play, Washington made a layup that cut the Toledo lead to 65-64. Rokkanen made a key 3-pointer on the next possession to give the Rockets a 68-64 lead with 2:40 left.
“I was so proud of Sara Rokkanen for still stepping up and shooting in the second half,” Cullop said. “We have to have outside threats so we can open up Kaayla and when we’ve got the inside-outside game going, this offense is a lot more fun to watch.”
Frannie Frazier cut the Toledo lead to 69-66 after she made a layup, but Toledo got stops on the last two possessions of the game and got two free throws from Boyd and one of two from Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott to stretch the lead to 72-66. Then a steal by Sarah St-Fort with 11 seconds left allowed the Rockets to dribble out the clock.
“We just had to make sure we made them take tough shots and also box out,” McIntyre said. “We know some of their players are really good at offensive rebounds, so we had to make sure we boxed out and contested their shots.”
The Toledo bench outscored Ball State 24-8 in the game, led by 12 first-half points from Santucci.
“I am so proud of her,” McIntyre said of Santucci. “She has kind of struggled with her confidence a little bit. I know as her teammates we just try to give her the confidence to take open shots instead of always looking to pass it. I am really glad that when she was open, she took the shots and was able to knock them down.”
McIntyre had just four points at halftime, but responded with 11 in the second half and was determined to be more aggressive when she got the ball in the post.
“I know often I get double-teamed,” McIntyre said. “In the first half, when I did get double-teamed, I was trying to just find the open person. In the second half, I got good, deep seals and was able to score.”
Toledo’s largest lead of the game came in the first quarter after Boyd made a free throw with 3:08 left to make it 18-7. But Ball State finished the quarter on a 9-0 run and cut the Toledo lead to 18-16 at the end of the opening quarter.
Ball State tied the game 21-21 after a 3-pointer from Monaco with 8:19 left in the second quarter. Toledo then went on a quick 8-2 run over the next 2:24 and led 29-23 after a Rokkanen layup with 5:36 left in the quarter.
Toledo went on to lead 37-28 at halftime and 57-48 after three quarters.
“I’m exceptionally proud of our team today for the effort,” Cullop said. “We beat a very good team. Ball State has had a great season thus far and posed a lot of issues that we had to address today in order to beat them. I thought we did a great job on the boards, I thought we took care of the basketball, and I thought our bench came through. Those were three big keys for us and we were able to check every box.”
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