Toledo begins its 39th season of women's basketball on Friday, Nov. 9 when it hosts Sun Belt Conference member Arkansas State. The opening tip is slated for 7:00 p.m. in Savage Arena.
The Rockets are the preseason favorite to win the Mid-American Conference West Division for a fourth-consecutive season as well as the league tourney crown, according to a vote of the league's media contingent and the conference's head coaches. The Red Wolves were picked second in the SBC West Division Preseason Poll, according to a vote of the league's 11 head coaches.
UT returns 11 letterwinners in 2012-13, including four starters, from last year's squad that finished with a 24-10 overall record. The Midnight Blue & Gold captured a share of a third consecutive division crown with a 13-3 league ledger.
Two-time MAC Coach of the Year Tricia Cullop and the Rockets made their third consecutive appearance and eighth overall in the WNIT in 2012. UT advanced to the ‘Elite Eight' of the postseason tourney with home victories against Detroit, Cincinnati and VCU.
Leading the way for Toledo this season will be three-time All-MAC honoree Naama Shafir (9.3 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.5 rpg), 2011-12 second-team All-MAC selection Yolanda Richardson (10.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg), two-time team captain Lecretia Smith (5.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.0 apg) and two-time all-league performer Kyle Baumgartner (5.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.9 apg), along with 2011-12 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and second-team all-conference recipient Andola Dortch (13.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 spg). In total, the Rockets welcome back 69.8 percent of their scoring, 75.5 percent of their rebounding, 71.1 percent of their assists, 87.6 percent of their blocked shots and 69.8 percent of their steals in 2012-13.
Toledo tips off its regular season on the heels of a 73-47 exhibition victory against NCAA Division II foe Wayne State on Sunday, Nov. 4. Junior Janelle Reed-Lewis and Shafir scored 19 points each to lead the Rockets to the 26-point triumph.
Shafir, who was playing in her first contest since tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee on Nov. 25, 2011, added a game-high nine assists and three steals in 29 minutes.
Reed-Lewis was a great complement to Shafir in the backcourt against the Warriors, knocking down 8-of-16 shots from the field, including 3-of-6 from three-point range.
Other top performers for the Rockets included junior Andola Dortch with nine points and five helpers, senior Lecretia Smith with six points, 10 rebounds and three thefts and senior Kyle Baumgartner with six points and a game-high 11 caroms.
Freshman Kendyl Nunn and Richardson did not dress for the game due to injury, but the duo is expected to be in uniform this evening.
Arkansas State is coming off a 12-18 overall record, 6-10 in the Sun Belt, in 2011-12. The Red Wolves have four starters returning for 14th-year head coach Brian Boyer and were recently picked second in the SBC West Division preseason poll. Individually, junior Jane Morrill was named preseason second-team all-conference. A second-team all-league selection a year ago, Morrill started all 30 games and led the squad in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.5 rpg).
UT and ASU will be meeting for a second-consecutive season and third time overall. The Red Wolves lead the series, 2-0, claiming a 69-68 victory on March 24, 1994 in the WNIT in Amarillo, TX and a 64-56 win on Nov. 27, 2011 in Jonesboro, AR.
Following Friday's season opener, Toledo will travel to Dayton, OH on Wednesday, Nov. 14 to battle Atlantic 10 power Dayton. Tip-off will be at 7:00 p.m. in UD Arena.