MAC West Champs Travel to Northern Illinois on Saturday

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 02/25/2011
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Courtesy: Scott Grau
Redshirt freshman Andola Dortch and the Rockets can claim their first outright MAC regular-season title with a victory against NIU on Saturday.

DeKALB, IL - Toledo (21-6, 13-1 MAC) looks to maintain its torrid pace on Saturday, Feb. 26 when it battles Northern Illinois (11-16, 5-9 MAC). Tip-off time is set for 3:00 p.m. (CT) in the Convocation Center.

The Rockets are riding a season-high nine-game win streak, tied for the eighth-longest stretch in school history, following Wednesday's thrilling 65-64 triumph over Eastern Michigan.

With the one-point win against the Eagles, UT has successfully defended its Mid-American Conference West Division title and one more victory would give the Rockets their first outright conference regular-season title since 2001. Toledo has already secured the top seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament.

If the tourney started today, Toledo would face the winner of No. 8 seed Huskies and No. 9 seed Ball State in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 9 in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

Junior Naama Shafir poured in a season-high 32 points, including a three-pointer with just under one minute to play, to lift Toledo to the come-from-behind win over the Eagles.

Shafir keyed the furious second-half rally for the Midnight Blue & Gold, who trailed by a score of 36-31 at the break.

The Rockets gained their first lead since the opening basket of the game when Shafir hit a pair of charity tosses to put them up 45-44 with 12:13 remaining.

The two heavyweight combatants battled toe-to-toe from that point on until Shafir knocked down a triple with one second on the shot clock from about 25 feet away to give UT a 65-62 cushion with 55 seconds remaining. Eastern Michigan's Kristin Thomas came right back with a layup to cut the advantage to one point with 31 ticks showing on the clock.

Senior Melissa Goodall then missed a three-pointer with the shot clock running down once again and only eight seconds remaining overall, but sophomore Lecretia Smith secured the offensive rebound and the home team ran out the clock.

For the season, Shafir paces Toledo in scoring and assists, averaging 14.8 ppg and 5.2 apg. Goodall is close behind tallying 12.9 ppg, a team-high 7.0 rpg and a squad-best 1.2 bpg.

NIU enters tomorrow's division contest on the heels of a 72-70 overtime setback at Western Michigan on Tuesday. Ebony Ellis paced the Huskies with 20 points and 14 boards against the Broncos, while All-MAC candidate Marke Freeman finished with 19 points.

NIU features an attack with four players averaging at least 8.0 points led by Freeman's 16.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 2.4 spg. The Huskies are 5-5 at home this season.

The Rockets, who are 9-5 on the road, will be looking to sweep the season series against the Huskies for the second time in the last three years. UT claimed a 42-31 victory over Northern Illinois in Savage Arena on Jan. 12.

Following tomorrow's game, the Rockets will close out their regular season against Central Michigan on Wednesday, March 2 at home. The opening tip is slated for 7:00 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Prior to Wednesday's contest, UT's two seniors - Jessica Williams and Goodall - will be honored. - Your Source for Rocket Sports
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