Toledo, OH - In perhaps the most electrified atmosphere at Savage Arena in more than five years the University of Toledo Lady Rockets basketball team edged the Bowling Green State University Lady Falcons by the score of 66-63. The arena was fully charged 10 minutes before tip-off when the Rockets came onto the floor through the Rocket fan tunnel and emerged before a MAC "on campus" record attendance of 5825. The Falcon faithful were very well represented by nearly 1000 fans wearing their highly visual BG optic orange shirts. The lines were drawn and the battle began.
BGSU came into the game led by their highly successful veteran coach Curt Miller and arguably the best player in the MAC Lauren Prochaska. The undefeated Falcons arrived in Toledo having cruised through their MAC schedule and crushing their conference opponents by an average of over 20 point per game. The Rockets have been far less dominant but nevertheless enter the game tied for first in the MAC west. Therefore, the game pitted longtime arch rivals and opposing division 1st place leaders against one another in perhaps the best match-up the MAC has seen in several years. The raucous crowd was not to be disappointed.
BGSU is considered a highly skilled, perimeter based, excellent shooting basketball team that is accustomed to winning. While the UT Rockets entered less respected by the media but considered an up and coming program that is very athletic and well balanced with good strength in the post position. This post play imbalance would prove pivotal to the final outcome.
The Lady rockets fought to a 21-17 advantage at the 10:44 mark on a layup by Yolanda Richardson. However, UT went into a prolonged shooting slump and BGSU stepped on the gas pedal and roared back to a 28-21 advantage on a 3 pointer by Hennegan at 8:37. UT came back within one point at 27-28 at 6:55. This mini comeback typified the game as a whole since UT came back on three separate occasions by at least 7 points. UT seemed to play their best when "rubber-banding" back from these potentially tipping point deficits. UT chased BG for most of the 1st half and went into the locker room trailing 41-35. The Rockets actually outshot BG (48% - 42%) and out-rebounded BG (19-17) but BG dominated from beyond the arc leading 6 to 2 in made shots and BG also won the battle at the charity stripe 9 to 5. UT stayed close to BG largely due to clamping down Prochaska and limiting her to 11 points on 2 for 8 shooting.
The Rockets started the 2nd half strong and actually took the lead 44-43 on a 3 pointer by Tamika Mays at 16:09. Tamika Mays was ultimately the leading scorer for the game with 20 points. Tamika was assigned to cover Prochaska in what must be considered the key player match-up of the game. Coach Cullop was not disappointed in her decision to assign her leading scorer to cover BGSU's leading scorer. Mays is a forward while Prochaska is a guard but the added length and athleticism of Mays made the match-up problematic for Prochaska resulting in 4-16 shooting from the floor.
The Lady Rockets went cold again and found themselves down 60-52 at 6:05. At this point the Rockets dug deep and started the comeback that would snag them their biggest win in several years and break the BG jinx that has haunted the women for sometime. The final 6 minutes were owned by UT's Goodall and Shafir. Goodall scored 8 points and had a key steal in the last minute that ultimately preserved the victory. For the game Goodall scored 17 points and gathered 10 boards. Naama Shafir's savvy on-court leadership from the point position guided the Rockets down the stretch. Her classic decoy layup at 1:59 gave the Rockets their final lead at 64-63. Shafir pretended to consult with the bench and reversed and blew by the BG defender for a layup bucket that brought the crowd to their feet. This was perhaps the most exciting play at UT in a long, long time.
The Rockets increased their defensive intensity in the last few minutes which resulted in BG going 1-6 from the floor with 5 turnovers down the fateful stretch. UT employed man to man and switching man to man defenses and these changes, according to Curt Miller in the post game press conference, caused BG identification problems throughout the game and cost them dearly down the stretch.
UT missed a one in one opportunity to seal the game and BGSU hauled in the rebound and came charging down the court but BGSU's Tracy Pontius missed a long range 3 pointer at the buzzer. UT gathered the rebounded which started the post game on-floor celebration. Fans, including the men's football team, charged the floor and created what Melissa Goodall called a "mosh pit" in the post game press conference.
UT outscored BG in the "paint" 38-16. The Lady Rockets also outshot the Falcons 42% to 36%. BGSU's perimeter shooting kept the Falcons close as they out-gunned UT 10 to 4 from 3 point land.
Coach Cullop stated" it was great to get the monkey off their back" relative to beating BGSU. Cullop shared with the media "that she has the utmost respect for Curt Miller and the BGSU team". The coach also stated that she feels UT now has the bench strength to compete with BGSU.
The Rockets are now 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the MAC. The Lady Rockets play next at Kent State University on Wednesday Feb. 3.
Lady Rockets Win Epic Battle
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