BOWLING GREEN — To say the University of Toledo women’s basketball team has been struggling to hit 3-pointers in Mid-American Conference play would be an understatement.
But the Rockets found their stroke from behind the 3-point line Saturday and rode that sharp shooting to a 77-67 victory against Bowling Green in front of 2,103 fans at the Stroh Center.
Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop huddles with her team after they defeated their rival Bowling Green.
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The key shooter was senior Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, who had made just 7 of 36 on 3s (19.4 percent) in her previous six games.
In this contest, she tied the school record with eight 3s and finished with 27 points, three off her career high.
“I personally said, ‘Just shoot it,’” said Bravo-Harriott when asked about her previous shooting struggles. “If you’re wide open, just shoot it.
VIDEO: Toledo-Bowling Green
“After a while, you could see that everybody was hitting it.”
The Rockets, who entered the game making just 24.5 percent of their 3s in MAC games, connected on 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) to roll to a 29-15 lead after one quarter. UT then used a 15-0 run in a four-minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters to claim its fifth consecutive win against its arch rivals.
“You can’t dig yourself a hole like that in a rivalry game and expect good things to happen,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “We clawed back, clawed back, and clawed back to take a lead in the third quarter. …
“Our starts just have to be better.”
Besides the effort from Bravo-Harriott, Toledo (14-7, 5-4 MAC) got 17 points off the bench from Olivia Cunningham, who had missed the past two games because of injury. Mikaela Boyd had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, adding six assists, and Kaayla McIntyre had 10 points.
Sydney Lambert had 24 points — including 10 in the fourth — to lead Bowling Green (10-10, 2-7 MAC). Carly Santoro had 12 points, and Jane Uecker came off the bench to score 10 for the Falcons.
The Rockets blasted off to a 7-0 start in the first two minutes and, after BG’s Haley Puk made a 3, Bravo-Harriott collected a three-point play before hitting a 3 for a six-point run by UT.
Toledo's Jay Bravo-Harriott aims under pressure from BGSU's Sydney Lambert during basketball game at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. Bravo-Harriott was the high scorer with 27 points.
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Toledo used a late 8-0 run to lead 29-15 at the quarter’s end, as Bravo-Harriott had 15 points thanks in part to shooting 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
“That’s the most points we’ve scored in a quarter in a while,” said Rockets coach Tricia Cullop, whose team had not reached that total since scoring 31 in the fourth quarter in the Jan. 10 win against Ohio. “But when they went to a zone in the second quarter, we struggled.”
After McIntyre made the first basket of the second, Bowling Green took charge. The Falcons scored the game’s next nine points to force a UT timeout with 7 minutes, 41 seconds on the clock to cut the lead to seven.
Cunningham scored twice for Toledo, only to see Bowling Green go on another nine-point run to cut its deficit to two.
“We went zone to eliminate all their movement because we were making some ball-screen coverage mistakes,” Roos said. “I thought our zone really disrupted them, and I thought we controlled tempo.”
Cunningham’s basket from the right baseline in the final 10 seconds made the halftime score 37-33 Rockets.
Both teams struggled to score through much of the third, but Uecker had baskets in the lane about two minutes apart that gave the Falcons a 44-39 lead with 3:35 remaining in the quarter.
After a basket by Caterrion Thompson with 1:59 left, Toledo used that 15-0 run to build a 56-46 advantage with 7:33 to go in regulation.
“We turned the ball over a lot, and that hurt us,” Lambert said.
“They denied the wings heavily, with disrupted the flow of our offense.”
Bowling Green turned the ball over on five of its next six possessions before a jumper by Lambert broke the string with 6:56 on the clock.
“They turned up the pressure for sure,” Roos said. “But when you fall down by double digits early, and you spend so much energy to claw back and actually take a lead — when we exhaled, they took the momentum and flipped it.”
Meanwhile, Toledo scored on five of its six possessions to jump-start that run, including a pair of 3s by Bravo-Harriott.
“When we get stops, we can go into transition offense — and that’s hard to stop,” she said. “And the more stops we get, the less confident the other team gets.”
Bowling Green came no closer than six points after that, as the Rockets snapped a two-game losing streak.
“This is our first road win in conference play — we needed to get that,” Cullop said. “It also was a rivalry win.
“But I don’t think it would have mattered who we played today. Our kids were very hungry, very excited to get on the court and redeem themselves for how we’ve played recently.”
The Falcons suffered their third loss in a row and fell to 2-6 in January.
“Any loss is tough, but Toledo is worse because they’re so close to home and it’s a big rivalry,” Lambert said.
“Coming up short is not the best feeling in the world — especially when you know you could have done stuff differently to get a different outcome.”
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