Toledo wrapped up its regular season in fine fashion with a 70-65 victory at Ball State Tuesday in Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind.With the win and an Eastern Michigan loss, the Rockets (20-8, 13-3 Mid-American Conference) have secured a share of their third-consecutive MAC West Division title.
UT will be the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament and play a quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 8, at approximately 2:30 p.m. in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
Junior Kyle Baumgartner led a season-high five Rockets in double figures with 14 points, eight rebounds and two assists in only 18 minutes off the bench. Baumgartner broke out of a recent scoring slump that saw her with a combined 10 points over the last five games.
Joining Baumgartner in double figures were junior Yolanda Richardson (13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots.), senior Courtney Ingersoll (13 points), sophomore Andola Dortch (12 points, 7 assists) and junior Lecretia Smith (11 points, 9 rebounds) to help the Midnight Blue and Gold claim its third straight 20-win season.
The last time UT won at least 20 games in three consecutive seasons occurred during the 1996-99 campaigns.
The Rockets shot 45.8 percent (22 of 48) from the field, 30.0 percent (3 of 10) from three-point land, and 71.9 percent (23 of 32) from the charity stripe to sweep the regular season series against the Cardinals (9-20, 4-12 MAC) for the second straight year.
Ball State hit the ground running and hit five of its first six field-goal attempts, jumping out to a 12-7 lead at the 16:22 mark. Suzanne Grossnickle did most of the damage in the opening moments of the division matchup, converting all four of her field goals for nine points.
Toledo fought its way back into the game behind six points from Baumgartner to tie the score at 14-14 with 11:02 remaining in the opening period.
Moments later, UT senior Haylie Linn scored four consecutive points to give the visitors their first lead since the opening basket, 20-18, at 8:32 mark.
The Cardinals were quick to counter behind the inside presence of Amber Crago and Grossnickle to regain the advantage, 26-22, with 4:41 left in the period. The duo was responsible for six straight points to force UT into a timeout.
UT responded well following the stoppage of play and ended the half with a 12-2 burst to take a 34-28 edge at the intermission. Baumgartner was again the workhorse in the waning moments of the period, scoring six points in the run to establish a two-possession lead at the break.
The 2011 WNIT Champs received a pair of triples from Dortch and six points from Richardson to open up a 51-42 cushion with 11:20 left in regulation, forcing BSU into another timeout.
The Rockets maintained at least a five-point lead until BSU’s Brittany Carter drained a deep triple to make the score 58-55 with 3:01 showing the clock.
UT would not allow BSU to get any closer, though, hitting 12 free throws over the final three minutes to make the final score 70-65. Ingersoll was a perfect eight for eight from the charity stripe to aid Toledo in winning consecutive games in Worthen Arena for the first time since 2003-04.