DeKALB, IL – Toledo (17-2, 5-1 MAC) escaped Northern Illinois (5-14, 0-6 MAC) with a 44-42 victory on Saturday inside the Convocation Center. The Rockets stopped the Huskies on their final two possessions and shot 6-of-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch, clinching their fifth-straight victory overall and fourth-straight over NIU.
The series between UT and NIU is known for being a struggle on the offensive end. Neither team has reached 50 points in four of the six previous matchups.
Both teams shot 37 percent from the field and exchanged the lead eight times. The Rockets were only 7-of-22 from the field in the second half and overcame a late 9-2 NIU run, holding the home team to three made field goals over the final seven minutes. UT forced a shot clock violation with 14 seconds left and didn't allow the home team a shot attempt in the final eight seconds following a junior Andola Dortch free throw to seal the win.
Dortch was the only Rocket to score in double figures with a game-high 15 points on 5-of-8 (62.5%) shooting and one triple in 38 minutes. She reached double digits in the fourth-straight game and 11th time this season, and is averaging 15.8 points in that span.
Senior Yolanda Richardson and sophomore Inma Zanoguera were each close to recording double-doubles in the division showdown. Richardson packed the stat sheet with nine points and a game-high nine rebounds, to go along with one block, one steal and one assist in 28 minutes on the floor.
Zanoguera added eight points, six boards and two thefts. She put the Rockets up for good with a reverse scoop layup in the final minute. That basket came right after the Huskies stole the lead by drilling a three with 1:54 left, which happened to be the last time they would score.
Toledo's leading scorer senior Naama Shafir was held to a season-low two points (1-of-6 FG) while battling foul trouble. Shafir picked up two fouls early on, but was able to play 32 minutes. It doesn't show up in the box score, but Shafir was clutch on the defensive end. The fifth-year senior took four charges, including a play where she raced ahead of NIU's Amanda Corral on a fast break and planted herself, taking the charge to preserve a one-point lead with three fouls and 12:31 left in the game.
Shafir also dished out three assists to bring her career total to 658, which is one shy of the UT career record held by Dana Drew ('95).
Both of Northern Illinois' leading scorers reached double figures to carry the Huskies. UT was focused on keeping the ball out of the paint on defense, leading to open three's for NIU. Satavia Taylor took advantage with 3-of-4 from behind the arc and added two jumpers for a team-high 14 points. Corral chipped in with 13 points, including 2-of-3 from long range.
The Rockets outscored the Huskies 20-10 from inside and converted 18 turnovers into 13 points. UT has now won consecutive games at NIU for the first time in ten years (2000-2002).
Toledo will host Ohio on Thursday, Jan. 31. The opening tip from Savage Arena is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.