RENO – Toledo put forth its best overall effort of the season and tallied a 73-48 victory over Santa Clara (2-3) on Friday in the opening game of the John Ascuaga's Nugget Classic at the Lawlor Evants Center. With the impressive triumph, the Rockets improve to 3-1 on the season.
UT will now advance to tomorrow's championship contest against host Nevada at 4:30 p.m. (PT). The Wolfpack defeated Cleveland State, 86-79, in today's opening game. The Midnight Blue & Gold will be in search of its sixth tourney titles in school history, including third under head coach Tricia Cullop.
The Rockets put a season-high four players in double figures, including junior Andola Dortch with a team-high 15 points and three steals. Joining Dortch with at least 10 points were senior Yolanda Richardson (13 pts.), senior Riley McCormick (career-tying best 12 pts.) and senior Naama Shafir (11 pts., 5 asts.).
Toledo shot 40.6 percent (26-of-64) from the floor, including 35.0 percent (7-of-20) from three-point range, and 57.9 percent (11-of-19) from the charity stripe to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. UT claimed a 66-62 triumph at Colorado State on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
The Rockets hit three of its first six shots from the field and jumped out to a 7-0 lead at 15:54 and never looked back. Shafir hit a trey and senior Lecretia Smith and Dortch also knocked down field goals to help the Midnight Blue & Gold race out to an insurmountable advantage.
Moments later, McCormick hit the first of her game-high four triples and Dortch followed with back-to-back baskets to push UT's margin to 14-4 at the 12:25 mark. The Rockets was also efficient on defense in the opening stages of the contest, forcing the Broncos into eight turnovers which they translated into seven points.
UT continued to play with a sizable lead as the first half wore on and a pair of layups from Richardson made the score 24-11 at 7:34.
Santa Clara did its best to keep the game close behind the effort from Ricki Radanovich, who made back-to-back baskets to put the deficit under double figures, 24-15, at 5:37.
Toledo was quick to counter though, as junior Janelle Reed-Lewis was responsible for six straight points to extend the margin to 37-20 at the intermission.
UT did not take its foot off the accelerator to begin the second half and another McCormick trey pushed the lead to 50-27 with 15:22 left in regulation.
The Rockets then put the game away with consecutive layups from junior Brianna Jones, Richardson and Smith to make the difference 62-39 at 7:53.
The three-time reigning Mid-American Conference West Division champions finished with a 43-31 edge on the glass, including a career-high nine by Jones.
Defensively, UT forced SCU into 27 turnovers and held the opposition to 39.6 percent (19-of-48) from the field.
Radanovich led the Broncos with a game-high 17 points. She was the only SCU player in double figures.