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2017 MAC Tournament Champions visit Toledo City Council

The 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament Champion Toledo women’s basketball team were guests of Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and the Toledo City Council March 21 at One Government Center.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop and the Rockets were honored with a resolution from Hicks-Hudson in Council Chambers. A handful of council members also made remarks about UT’s championship run, and the entire Toledo City Council took photos with the group.

The MAC Champions and UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien posed for a photo with Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson in her office at One Government Center.

Prior to the council meeting, UT spent time with Hicks-Hudson and had the opportunity to take a tour of her 22nd floor office.

Earlier in the day, the Governor’s Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison Lu Cooke presented the Rockets with a proclamation from Gov. John Kasich marking their first MAC Tournament title since 2001 and eighth in program history.

Toledo, which finished the year with a 25-9 overall record, earned the Mid-American Conference’s automatic bid to the “Big Dance” after winning the MAC Tournament in Cleveland. The Midnight Blue and Gold defeated Akron, 65-37, in the first round, MAC East Division champion Kent State, 67-63, in the quarterfinals, defending MAC Tournament champion Buffalo, 72-65, in the semifinals and Northern Illinois, 82-71, in the finals.

Rockets to play Toledo Crash in wheelchair football game

The Toledo Rockets football team will play a wheelchair football game vs. the Toledo Crash in their annual matchup Sunday, March 26, at 1 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center.

Fans are invited to attend this free event.

Established in 2003 by the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, the Toledo Crash is an integrated wheelchair football team dedicated to increasing awareness and building community. The team accomplishes this by creating opportunities for sports enthusiasts with and without disabilities to come together around the sport of football.

The Rockets and the Toledo Crash have been playing an annual wheelchair football game every year since 2005.

Football coach signs contract extension through 2021

The University of Toledo and Head Football Coach Jason Candle have agreed to a contract extension through the 2021 season.

Candle led the Rockets to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in his first full season as Toledo’s head coach in 2016. He took over the head coaching position at the end of the 2015 regular season, leading UT to a 32-17 victory over No. 24 Temple in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl. Before assuming the head coaching position, Candle had been an assistant at Toledo for seven years, the last four as the program’s offensive coordinator.

Candle

“We are very pleased to announce the extension of Jason Candle’s contract through the 2021 season,” Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “Jason has played a very important part of the success of our football program over the last eight years, first as an assistant coach and now as head coach. He is a tremendous leader and teacher of young men, and has a great desire to elevate our football program to even greater heights. We look forward to his leadership for many years to come.”  

“I’m very appreciative of the support and confidence that President Gaber and Mike O’Brien have in me and my staff,” Candle said. “Our program is built on a strong foundation of success, and we are focused on bringing a Mid-American Conference Championship to this great University.”

Candle, a native of Salem, Ohio, began his coaching career at his alma mater, Mount Union, in 2003. He was a part of four NCAA Division III national championships with the Purple Raiders, two as a player and two as an assistant coach.

He joined Toledo in 2009 as a receivers coach and moved into the offensive coordinator position in 2012. Under Candle’s guidance as offensive coordinator, the Rocket offense was prolific. In 2014, UT led the MAC in just about every major offensive category, including scoring (36.6), total offense (490.5) and rushing offense (256.4), en route to a 9-4 record and a victory over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl. In 2015, the Rockets were 10-2 and ranked third in the MAC in scoring (35.0) and total offense (460.9).

Candle was named one of the top recruiters in the nation by Rivals in 2010. He was named the Mid-American Conference “Recruiter of the Year” by Scout.com in 2011 and 2012. In 2014, Candle was one of only two MAC assistant coaches to be named by Rivals as being among the top recruiters in the Group of Five football conferences.

Since taking over as head coach, Candle’s recruiting success has continued. Despite having just weeks to put together a staff at the conclusion of the 2015 season, Toledo’s 2016 class was ranked No. 2 in the MAC by ESPN. This past February, the 2017 Rocket recruiting class was rated No. 1 in the MAC by every major recruiting service.

Rockets fall to Creighton, 76-49, in first-round NCAA Tournament game

Sophomore guard Mikaela Boyd scored 11 points, but it wasn’t enough to counter the hot shooting of Toledo’s first-round opponents in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships. The Rockets fell to Creighton, 76-49, Friday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore.

Toledo (25-9) trailed by 22 points at the half and could only get as close as 16 points in the third quarter. Creighton (23-7), regular-season Big East champions, had a hot-shooting night, making 47.3 percent of its shots from the field and 43.5 percent from three-point range. Toledo shot 32.3 percent from the floor and made just 2 of 10 shots from behind the arc. Sophomore center Kayla McIntyre and freshman guard Mariella Santucci each added 10 points to the UT cause.

Sophomore guard Mikaela Boyd scored 11 points for the Rockets.

Creighton came out on fire, with guard Marissa Janning scoring 15 of her game-high 19 points in the first six minutes of the contest. She hit her first three shots from behind the arc, her third triple at the 4:11 mark giving the Bluejays an 18-4 lead, and forcing Head Coach Tricia Cullop to call timeout. Creighton extended the lead to 27-12 on a mid-range jumper by Sydney Lamberty on the final shot of the first quarter.

Boyd tried to keep the Rockets close. Her jumper early in the second quarter cut the lead to 27-14, but Creighton was relentless. Kylie Brown scored on an inside basket, and Audrey Faber knocked down a jumper to up the margin to 31-14 with 7:47 left in the half. Moments later, Lamberty hit another jumper, making the score 35-18 and causing Cullop once again to stop the action with a timeout.

Freshman guard Mariella Santucci guarded a Creighton player.

Creighton went a 9-0 run late in the half to open up a 44-20 lead. Santucci’s layup with 28 seconds cut the Bluejay lead to 44-22 at the half.

Creighton shot a sizzling 15 of 29 from the field in the first half, including 7 of 14 from three-point range. Toledo hit just 11 of 34 (32.4 percent) in the opening half and did not hit a three-pointer in seven attempts.

Toledo came to life in the third quarter, scoring the first six points of the period, all by McIntyre, to cut the Creighton lead to 44-28 and forcing a Bluejay timeout. But Creighton countered with a 7-2 run, capped by a layup by Brianna Rollerson to make the score 53-32 going into the media timeout of the third quarter.

The Bluejays ended the quarter on another 8-3 run, giving them a 63-35 lead after three quarters of play.

The closest the Rockets would come in the fourth quarter was 24 points when junior guard Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott scored to cut the lead to 67-43 with 5:56 left.

While the Rockets’ season comes to an end, Creighton advances to face host Oregon State (30-4) Sunday. The No. 2 seed Beavers survived an early scare from No. 15 seed Long Beach State, knocking off the 49ers, 56-55, in the day’s first game at Gill Coliseum.

Toledo ready to battle Bluejays in NCAA Tournament First-Round contest

Much has been said about the fact that The University of Toledo women’s basketball team is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years. Head Coach Tricia Cullop pointed out that there is another streak the Rockets would like to break.

“It’s been 16 years since we made the NCAA Tournament,” said Cullop at yesterday’s pre-practice news conference, “but it’s been even longer (21 years) since we advanced to the second round.”

After meeting with the press, Cullop and the Rockets got their first look at Gill Coliseum, holding a 90-minute practice Thursday afternoon at Oregon State’s home arena in Corvallis in anticipation of its first-round NCAA Tournament game vs. Creighton on Friday.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 in the Toledo and Omaha markets (ESPN3 elsewhere) and will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Oregon State-Long Beach State game. The OSU-LBSU contest is set for 2 p.m. Pacific Time (5 p.m. Eastern Time), giving the Toledo-Creighton game an approximate tip time of 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time (7:30 Eastern Time).

The No. 10 seed Rockets (25-8) earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament by defeating Northern Illinois, 82-71, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Saturday, and winning their first MAC Championship Tournament title since 2001. No. 7 seed Creighton (23-7) was the regular-season Big East champion, but was knocked out of the conference tournament with a loss to Marquette in the semifinals.

The Rockets are basking in the glow of their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, but clearly they are not satisfied to simply make the tournament. They are looking to advance to the second round of the tournament, something they have done three times before, but not since 1996 when they defeated Ole Miss in Norfolk, Va.

“After we won the (MAC) tournament, we enjoyed the fact that we finally won after so many years,” said Cullop, who herself is making her first NCAA appearance in 17 years as a head coach. “After we watched the NCAA selection show, I wanted our players to soak that in because that’s a special moment that we’ll never forget. But at our last practice before we came out here (on Wednesday), I had our players look up at all the banners in Savage Arena. The one thing I wanted them to take special note of, yes, it’s been 16 years since we made the NCAA Tournament, but it’s been even longer since we advanced to the second round. I don’t want them to just be satisfied to be here. I want them to be hungry to give it their best shot.”

Toledo’s players are ready for the challenge.

“Everyone is excited for this opportunity,” said senior forward Janice Monakana. “We are appreciative to be here, and we plan to show our appreciation by playing hard. Our goal right now is to move into the second round and see what happens from there.”

Added sophomore guard Mikaela Boyd, “We’re watching a lot of film (of Creighton), trying to learn as much as we can. We’ve worked hard for this all season, and we don’t want to stop now. We want to take this as far as we can go.”

Cullop and Creighton Head Coach Jim Flanery are friends, dating back to the days when Cullop was the head coach at Evansville from 2000 to 2008. Evansville and Creighton were both members of the Missouri Valley Conference at the time. Creighton has since moved the Big East, and Cullop took over at Toledo in the 2008-09 season.

“I have the ultimate respect for Jim,” Cullop said. “He’s a class act and has built a great program at Creighton. He’s a coaching peer I have a lot of admiration for. It’s a little bittersweet. Had we not been paired against each other, we’d be cheering for each other.”

Toledo and Creighton had only one common opponent this season, Dayton, which is also an NCAA Tournament team. The Bluejays defeated the Flyers on a neutral floor, 56-53, while the Rockets won at Dayton, 76-72. Toledo’s other games against NCAA tourney teams were losses to UCLA, 75-73, and Notre Dame, 85-68. Toledo went 12-6 in MAC play, with all six losses coming to teams seeded ahead of them in the conference tournament. The Rockets ended their season on a high note, winning 11 of their 12 games, including four MAC tourney games.

“We’ve been tested a lot this season, and we’ve risen to the occasion every time,” Cullop said. “I don’t expect anything different tomorrow. I’m not going to guarantee that we’re going to win, but I guarantee we’re going to play hard and give it our best shot.”

Rockets rally late, fall in final seconds at George Washington, 73-69

Toledo nearly rallied from a seven-point deficit with 2:33 remaining, but came up just short in a 73-69 defeat at George Washington in the first round of the 2017 College Basketball Invitational.

Sophomore guard Jaelan Sanford topped the Rockets’ attack with 25 points to go along with a team-high three assists and zero turnovers in 40 minutes. Senior forward Steve Taylor also scored in double figures for Toledo with 18 points.

Senior forward Tyler Cavanaugh led George Washington with a game-high 29 points and tied for the team lead with seven boards. Freshman forward Patrick Steeves was the only other Colonial to score in double digits with 17 points.

Toledo (17-17) shot 50.9 percent from the field, including an efficient 61.5 mark in the second half, and 30.0 percent (6 of 20) from three-point range. The Colonials (20-14) registered a 49.1 shooting mark and were 9 of 24 (37.5 percent) from three-point range.

UT trailed the entire contest, but kept chipping away after falling behind by a 24-13 margin with 8:44 remaining in the first half. The Rockets trailed by a 35-29 margin at halftime and saw the Colonials extend their lead to 50-40 with just under six minutes into the second half.

Taylor’s layup with 7:08 remaining cut UT’s deficit to 61-58, but George Washington didn’t allow the Rockets to get any closer until the final minute. Sophomore forward Nate Navigato’s three free throws cut GWU’s lead to 71-69 with 15.1 seconds left after he was fouled on a three-point shot. Toledo then forced a turnover when the Colonials were whistled for a five-second call trying to throw the ball inbounds.

On the ensuing possession, Navigato drove into traffic, but couldn’t get a layup to fall. Cavanaugh then grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws to secure the win for the Colonials.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament tickets go on sale March 14 at 2 p.m.

Tickets go on sale Tuesday, March 14, at 2 p.m. for the Toledo women’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament game vs. Creighton Friday, March 17, in Corvallis, Ore.

Game time is 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time (7:30 p.m. Eastern Time).

Head Coach Tricia Cullop talked to fans who watched NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show with the team Monday night in Savage Arena.

Tickets are $20 and may be reserved at the UT Athletic Ticket Office, by going online at UTRockets.com, or by calling 419.530.4653. Tickets may be reserved until noon Friday.

All tickets can be picked up at Will Call at Gill Coliseum, the site of Toledo’s first-round game. There also will be an opportunity to pick up tickets at the team hotel in Corvallis.

Ticket purchasers will be notified by email with pickup time and location.

Should the Rockets advance to the second round of the tournament, orders for that game will be taken online at UTRockets.com immediately following Friday’s game.

Check UTRockets.com for updated ticket information and other details on the tournament.

UT to face Creighton in first round of NCAA Championships March 17 in Oregon

Toledo is heading back to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001. The Rockets are a No. 10 seed and will face No. 7 seed Creighton in first-round action Friday, March 17, in Corvallis, Ore.

Tip-off will be at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time (7:30 p.m. Eastern Time).

The bracket was unveiled Monday evening on ESPN, with the team gathering at Savage Arena to watch the selection show with their fans.

Players react when it was revealed the Rockets are the No. 10 seed and will face Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 17, in Corvallis, Ore.

Gill Coliseum will serve as the venue for Friday’s two games in the Stockton regional. The other game Friday will pit No. 15 seed Long Beach State against No. 2 seed and host Oregon State.

UT, 25-8 overall, is appearing in the NCAA Championships for the eighth time in program history. The Rockets have an all-time record of 3-7 in NCAA tourney games.

Toledo, which is in the midst of a season-high eight-game winning streak, earned the Mid-American Conference’s automatic bid to the “Big Dance” after winning the MAC Tournament last week in Cleveland. The Rockets defeated Akron, 65-37, in the first round, MAC East Division champion Kent St., 67-63, in the quarterfinals, defending MAC Tournament champion Buffalo, 72-65, in the semifinals and Northern Illinois, 82-71, in the finals.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop talked to fans who watched the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show with the team in Savage Arena.

Sophomore Mikaela Boyd was named the MAC Tournament MVP after averaging 12.3 points, a team-high 11.0 rebounds, a squad-tying best 4.8 assists, and a team-best 2.5 steals in a squad-high 33.5 minutes per contest.

Joining Boyd on the all-tourney team was freshman Mariella Santucci, who contributed a squad-best 13.8 points, 4.0 boards, a team-tying high 4.8 helpers, and 1.0 thefts in 30.8 minutes per game.

Creighton is 23-7 on the year, including a 16-2 mark in the Big East Conference. The Bluejays, co-champions of the conference, earned an at-large bid and will make their sixth NCAA Championships appearance in program history.

Ticket information will be announced Tuesday, March 14, as well as information about a pregame reception sponsored by the UT Alumni Association.

Women’s basketball MAC Championship T-shirts on sale

Toledo women’s basketball fans can celebrate their team’s 2016-17 Mid-American Conference Championship title with a souvenir MAC Championship T-shirt on sale now at Rocky’s Locker and online at UTRockets.com.

The gray T-shirt is $18 and comes in sizes from small to XXXL.

Rocky’s Locker is located in the Sullivan Athletic Complex at Savage Arena.

Order online here.

Toledo to play at George Washington March 15 in College Basketball Invitational

The Toledo men’s basketball team (17-16) has accepted a bid to compete in the 2017 College Basketball Invitational, as announced by the Gazelle Group. The Rockets will travel to Washington, D.C., to face Atlantic 10 foe George Washington (19-14) in first-round action Wednesday, March 15, at GW’s Charles E. Smith Center. Tip-off time is set for 7 p.m.

The Rockets, who faced the toughest non-conference schedule in the Mid-American Conference, will be making their third postseason appearance under Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk. UT previously has participated in the 2014 National Invitation Tournament as well as the 2012 CollegeInsiders.com Invitational Tournament during his tenure. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Toledo’s 81 overall victories rank second among Mid-American Conference schools.

In the 2017 MAC Tournament, Toledo registered a 77-62 first-round victory over Bowling Green before narrowly falling to No. 2 seed Ohio in the quarterfinals by a 67-66 margin. A pair of Rockets — seniors Steve Taylor Jr. and Jonathan Williams — received all-conference honors prior to postseason play. Taylor earned second-team All-MAC accolades after ranking second on the team with 15.2 points per game to go along with team highs of 12.4 rebounds per game and 3.8 assists per game. Williams was a third-team All-MAC honoree for a second-consecutive season after leading UT with 19.6 points per game.

The College Basketball Invitational is a single-elimination tournament up until the best-of-three finals, with all games played at campus sites. After the first-round games, the quarterfinal round will take place Monday, March 20, followed by the semifinal round Wednesday, March 22. Prior to the semifinals, the remaining teams will be re-bracketed. A best-of-three series serves as the finals in which one team will host two of the three games. Those games will be played Monday, March 27; Wednesday, March 29; and Friday, March 31.

Past College Basketball Invitational champions include Tulsa, Oregon State, VCU, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Santa Clara, Siena, Loyola (Ill.) and Nevada. Teams from nearly every conference have participated in the event. Twenty-eight teams have used the tournament to springboard to the NCAA Tournament the following year, while another 17 have gone on to the NIT.

ESPN is again the official television home of the College Basketball Invitational presented by FIVE FOUR. ESPNU will televise each game of the best-of-three Championship Series. Roy Philpott and Corey Williams will serve as the broadcast team.

The College Basketball Invitational presented by FIVE FOUR is produced by the Gazelle Group of Princeton, N.J. The Gazelle Group is a sports marketing firm, specializing in event production and management, client representation, and sponsorship consulting. Gazelle produces numerous nationally recognized events, including the 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, Legends Classic, and the Gotham Classic. For more information, visit gazellegroup.com.