ATLANTA, GA – Toledo stretched its win streak to 10-consecutive games with a 76-66 victory over Charlotte on Saturday in the opening contest of the Georgia State Holiday Tournament inside the GSU Sports Arena. With the triumph, the Rockets improve to 11-1 on the season.
UT will now play the host Panthers in tomorrow's championship game at approximately 4:00 p.m. Georgia State defeated Mississippi Valley State, 76-60, in today's other first-round contest. Toledo will look to capture its fourth tourney crown in 2012-13 and ninth in program history.
Senior Yolanda Richardson paced the Midnight Blue & Gold with a career-high 24 points and a squad-best eight rebounds. Richardson shot a sizzling 12-of-17 from the field to finish with at least 20 points for the fourth time in her collegiate career.
The Rockets also received 10 points each from senior Naama Shafir and sophomore Inma Zanougera and nine points from senior Lecretia Smith and junior Andola Dortch to extend their win streak to double digits for the ninth time in school history.
UT shot an impressive 45.6 percent (31-of-68) from the field, including 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from three-point land, and 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the charity stripe to surpass the 70-point plateau for a seventh time this season.
UT controlled the glass against an extremely athletic Charlotte (8-3) squad and held a 44-35 edge on the boards. The 49ers entered today's game out-rebounding their opposition by 11.5 caroms. The Midnight Blue & Gold also posted a season-high 21 assists, while committing only 11 turnovers.
Jennifer Hailey led the 49ers with a game-high 26 points and nine boards, while Jai Forney had 14 points and Hillary Sigmon had 12 points in a losing effort, snapping their four-game win streak.
Toledo broke open a close game at the intermission with a dominating second-half performance to advance to tomorrow's championship contest. The Rockets shot a blazing 54.5 percent (32-of-68) from the floor and outscored the 49ers 48-36 over the 20 minutes to erase a two-point halftime deficit.
Trailing 30-28 at halftime, Richardson ignited her team with eight quick points to draw the teams even at 38-38 with 17:03 left in regulation.
The Rockets fed off Richardson's strong play and went on a mini 17-12 run to open up a 55-50 lead with 11:17 left in regulation. Smith started the run with her second career triple, followed by a trey from senior Kyle Baumgartner and two more field goals from Richardson to help the visitors on the scoreboard build an insurmountable advantage.
UT maintained its excellent effort at both ends of the court as the second half wore on and pushed its margin to 69-60 on the strength of back-to-back three-point field goals from Zanoguera and Baumgartner at the 3:18 mark.
The three-time reigning Mid-American Conference West Division champions then put the game away at the free-throw line, making five of six attempts over the final 1:30 to finish off the impressive double-digit triumph.
In the first half, Charlotte started strong and raced out an 11-6 lead at 14:55 behind aggressive play inside from Hailey. The 2011-12 First-Team All-Atlantic 10 forward was responsible for a pair of baskets in the opening five-plus minutes.
UT quickly responded with a 14-4 run to assume a 20-15 advantage with 7:59 left in the opening half. Toledo took advantage of two layups from Richardson, as well as close field goals from junior Brianna Jones and Smith to establish a five-point bulge.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, their lead did not last long as Charlotte countered with a 6-0 burst to make the difference 23-20 at 5:01. Ny Hammonds sparked the run with four points, while Hailey contributed the other two points.
UT knotted the score on two more occasions in the waning moments of the first stanza but trailed 30-28 at the intermission, setting the stage for an explosive second half.