TOLEDO, OH - Toledo (1-0) earned a hard-fought 71-66 win over Saint Francis (PA) in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT on Friday at Savage Arena. With the victory, the Rockets advance to the second round and square off against Head Coach Tricia Cullop's alma mater, Purdue, on Monday, Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m. in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers disposed of Austin Peay in their opening-round contest, 93-53.
The score for tonight's season-opening game for both teams remained close throughout and only once did the margin extend into double digits. The Red Flash (0-1) led the entire first half and part of the second period, before the home team grabbed the advantage for good with 16:20 left in play in regulation.
Junior Naama Shafir paced three Rockets in double figures with a game-high 21 points, to go along with six assists and six rebounds. Senior co-captain Melissa Goodall contributed 20 points, six boards and a career-high five blocks, while senior co-captain Jessica Williams had 15 points with a contest-best four thefts. Sophomore Yolanda Richardson also had a good game on the glass for the 2010-11 preseason Mid-American Conference West Division favorites, pulling down a contest-high 11 caroms, including seven on the offensive side.
Turnovers and a rough start shooting put the Midnight Blue & Gold in an early 15-4 hole, but a quick 8-0 burst with scores from Shafir, sophomore Lecretia Smith and Richardson closed the gap to 15-12.
UT drained seven of its next 10 shots after missing its first 10 field-goal attempts and finished the opening half shooting 33.3 percent from the floor (12-of-36). The Rockets played catch-up for most of the period and were able knot the score on two occasions, but they were unable to snare the lead from the Red Flash. A strong 7-3 run by the visitors to finish out the period left the home team trailing by a single points at the intermission, 42-41.
Goodall paced the Rockets with 12 points and six boards in the first half. Shafir and Williams eached chipped in nine points as well, with six of Shafir's nine in the first coming from the charity stripe. Toledo shot an impressive 88.2 percent (15-of-17) from the stripe in the first stanza to stay within striking distance.
The second half started out much like the first ended, as a back-and-forth battle. The teams traded the opening pair of baskets, before a three-point field goal by Shafir gave the home team a lead it would not relinquish at the 16:20 mark. The trey from Shafir started a 13-2 run that stretched the Rockets' lead to a game-high nine points, 59-50.
Saint Francis (PA) kept it close, though, responding with an 8-0 run over the next five-plus minutes to shrink the margin to a single point, 59-58, with 4:33 left on the clock.
UT dug deep down down the stretch and received a pair of layups from Goodall, as well as triples from Williams and Shafir to preserve the season-opening victory. The Hoshaya, Israel native put the final nail in the coffin, sinking a half-court heave as the shot clock expired with only 20 seconds left in the game.
The Red Flash finished with four players in double figures, led by Brittany Lilley and Allison Daly with 11 points each. Sarah Thorn and Samantha Leach also chipped in 10 points in a losing effort. The visitors shot 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from the field, including 40.0 percent (6-of-15) from three-point range, and 57.1 percent (8-of-14) from the charity stripe.