Toledo Prevails Over Cal State Fullerton in Closing Seconds of SMC Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic, 59-58
MORAGA, CA – Toledo claimed a hard-fought 59-58 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Friday in the opening game of the SMC Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic in McKeon Pavilion. With the win, UT improves to 3-2 on the season.
Junior Inma Zanoguera and senior Brianna Jones paced the Rockets with 15 and a career-high 14 points, respectively, helping the Midnight Blue & Gold win back-to-back games for the first time this season. Jones added a collegiate-best 11 rebounds to post her first double-double, while Zanoguera contributed seven caroms, tied for the second-highest total on the squad.
Joining Zanoguera and Jones in double figures for the four-time reigning Mid-American Conference West Division champions was senior Janelle Reed-Lewis with 10 points.
Zanoguera has now led UT in scoring in four games this season, but none of her points were bigger than a jumper with 24.4 seconds left to give the home team on the scoreboard a one-point advantage.
The Titans (1-4) had two attempts in the final 20-plus seconds to claim the neutral-court triumph, but the Rockets forced a pair of misses to secure the win. With the one-point triumph, Toledo improves to 29-17 in games decided by five points or less under sixth-year head coach Tricia Cullop.
CSF’s first attempt in the waning seconds was a missed layup by Chante Miles with approximately 10 seconds left, but UT was unable to corral the rebound and the Titans retained possession. Following a Toledo foul, Cal State Fullerton had one final chance, but Samantha Logan’s deep three-point field goal attempt came up short and the Rockets held on for the victory.
Miles led the Titans with 15 points and a game-high eight assists, supported by Logan’s 14 points and 11 boards off the bench.
The Rockets shot 34.8 percent (24-of-69) from the field, including 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from beyond the arc, and a stellar 87.5 percent (7-of-8) from the charity stripe to win the first matchup between the schools.
Toledo also did a good job of taking care of the basketball and finished with 14 helpers, compared to only 10 turnovers.
After spotting the Titans an early 8-5 advantage, UT received back-to-back baskets from Zanoguera to take a 9-8 lead at the 15:09 mark in the first half.
The Rockets then took advantage of the first collegiate points from freshman Elena de Alfredo to extend their margin to 18-13 at 11:05. The Madrid, Spain native, who missed the first four games with an elbow injury, knocked down a triple and a jumper in the lane to give UT the five-point cushion.
After CSF knotted the score at 22-22, Toledo put together a mini 7-2 burst to open up a 29-22 lead with 2:48 left in the period. Jones sparked the run with three-straight field goals to make it a three-possession game.
The Rockets would not score for the remainder of the opening stanza, while Cal State Fullerton benefitted from a pair of layups by Kathleen Iwuoha to make it a 29-26 Toledo lead at the intermission.
UT extended its margin to 38-30 in the opening stages of the second half on the strength of a pair of jumpers by Zanoguera and a three-point play from Reed-Lewis. The Rockets hit four of their first six shots from the field in the opening three minutes to help them increase the margin to eight.
Cal State Fullerton then countered with a 20-6 run to assume a 50-44 lead with 6:35 remaining in regulation, forcing UT into a timeout. The Titans buried three straight triples to turn an eight-point deficit into a six-point lead. Logan ignited the burst with a pair of threes and eight total points during this stretch, while Natalie Williams and Miles also buried treys.
The Rockets responded well from the stoppage of play and scored nine of the next 11 points to reclaim the advantage, 53-52, with 2:10 remaining. Jones started the run with first four points, before Reed-Lewis finished it off with the final five.
Cal State Fullerton retaliated with a layup by Miles and another triple in the corner from Logan before UT received a layup from Zanoguera and pair of charity tosses by freshman Janice Monakana to set the stage for the dramatic closing seconds of regulation.
The Rockets will now play host Saint Mary’s (CA) tomorrow in their other contest in the two-game tourney. The opening tip against the Gaels will be 2:30 p.m. (PT).
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