MUNCIE – Toledo captured a 68-64 victory over Ball State on Sunday in a battle for the best overall record in the Mid-American Conference inside Worthen Arena. With the win, the Rockets extend their win streak to nine-consecutive games and improve to 21-2 overall, 9-1 in the league.
Senior Naama Shafir paced four UT players in double figures with 19 points and five rebounds. A candidate for MAC Player of the Year, Shafir tallied 14 points after the intermission to propel Toledo to its seventh-straight victory over the Cardinals (11-12, 8-2 MAC). The Hoshaya, Israel native was at her best when the pressure was on in the waning moments of regulation, accounting for eight of the team's final 14 points and was also credited with a clutch assist to help Toledo hold off a resilient BSU squad.
Joining Shafir in double figures were junior Andola Dortch with 13 points, eight boards, four helpers and three steals, senior Yolanda Richardson with 11 points, nine rebounds and a game-high three rejections and sophomore Inma Zanoguera with 10 points.
The Rockets also received a game-high 10 caroms from senior Lecretia Smith, including a pair of offensive boards in the final 30 seconds to preserve the four-point road triumph.
Toledo shot 37.7 percent (20-of-53) from the field, including 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from three-point range, and 71.0 percent (22-of-31) from the free throw line to win its third-straight game in Muncie for the first time since 1997-99. The Rockets' 22 free throws made equaled their season high, while their 31 attempts was a season high.
Shanee Jackson led Ball State with 17 points, eight rebounds and four thefts off the bench. Brandy Woody contributed 15 points and Nathalie Fontaine had 14 points in today's division showdown, snapping the Cardinals' six-game win streak.
The Rockets soared out of the gates and scored the game's first 11 points. Zanoguera and Richardson sparked the quick start, combining for nine of the points.
At the other end of the court, the Cardinals had their struggles at the outset and missed their first nine field-goal attempts to dig themselves the early hole. The home team did not score until Katie Murphy converted a layup at the 12:20 mark.
UT remained in control as the first half wore, taking advantage of a triple from senior Riley McCormick to make the difference 16-2 with 11:29 remaining in the opening stanza.
Toledo continued to push the action offensively and received treys from Dortch and Shafir to extend the margin to 27-11 at 4:46.
The Rockets' lead grew to as many as 20 points in the waning moments of the first period, before the visitors settled for a 37-21 advantage at the break.
UT did not lose its intensity to begin the second half and benefitted from a pair of layups by Shafir to build a 44-29 cushion with 14:16 left in regulation.
BSU then made the situation real interesting, utilizing a 20-6 run to draw the teams even at 53-53 at the 4:53 mark. Woody spearheaded the run with seven points, while Jackson finished off the rally with back-to-back treys to draw the teams even for the first time.
The squads exchanged the lead a couple times over the next two minutes, before UT's Richardson converted a layup from Shafir to give Toledo a lead it would not relinquish, 61-59, at 1:44.
Moments, later Shafir knocked down a jumper and drained a pair of charity tosses to close out the road victory.
Toledo finished with a commanding 47-37 advantage on the boards and drained 12 more free throws than Ball State to pull out the win.
The Rockets will return to action against Kent State on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. in Savage Arena. UT will hold its fourth-annual "Rockets for the Cure" day in conjunction with the cross-division game. The matchup will help benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Northwest Ohio. The team encourages everyone in attendance to wear pink in support of cancer research.