Rockets take Notre Dame down the wire

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WTVG) - From UT Athletics

For a second-straight year, Toledo women's basketball gave perennial power Notre Dame all it could handle.

Unfortunately for the Rockets, they once again came up a little short in a tough 54-51 setback on Wednesday before 7,269 fans in Purcell Pavilion. With the loss, the Rockets fall to 1-2 on the season.

"I'm extremely proud of our effort," Rockets coach Tricia Cullop said. "There are a lot of real positives to take from tonight's game. I was so pleased with how hard we played against a very talented team in a pretty tough environment."

Toledo held a 44-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Toledo was outscored 13-7 over the final 10 minutes and suffered its sixth-straight loss to the Fighting Irish (3-2).

The Rockets misfired on 11 of their 14 shots (21.4 percent) in the fourth period, including 0-of-5 from beyond the arc, while ND connected on four of 10 field-goal attempts and made five free throws to stake claim to the hard-fought three-point win.

"I wish we would could have back a couple of those four-quarter possessions," Cullop said. "We went cold at the wrong time. We had some good looks down the stretch, but we just couldn't get enough shots to fall."

Junior Nakiah Black paced Toledo with 12 points, a career-high nine rebounds and a season-tying best three steals.

Freshman Mali Morgan-Elliott added a season-high 10 points, followed closely by junior Tatyana Davis with nine.

As a team, the Rockets shot 34.4 percent (21-of-61) from the floor, including 20.0 percent (5-of-25) from three-point land, and 80.0 percent (4-of-5) from the free throw line.

Sam Brunelle led Notre Dame with a game-high 19 points and a contest-best 13 boards to post a double-double, while Destinee Walker and Kaitlyn Gilbert contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively. This trio accounted for all 13 points in the pivotal fourth quarter to propel ND to the home victory.

• The Rockets looked sharp early, utilizing a 9-0 run to help them build an early 18-10 lead. The big shot in the stretch was Morgan-Elliott's first-collegiate triple.

• Along with the Rockets' early strong play offensively, the visitors displayed stout defense, forcing Notre Dame to miss 15 of its 20 field-goal attempts in the opening 10 minutes.

• The Fighting Irish closed the gap to four points, 24-20, at the 3:52 mark, but Toledo's Morgan-Elliott responded with her second trey to give the Rockets a 33-26 lead at halftime. The Dayton, Ohio native was also credited with a short-range jumper in the waning moments of the half to set the difference at seven points.

• Morgan-Elliott paced Toledo with a game-high eight points in the first 20 minutes, followed closely by Black with seven.

• Notre Dame scored the first six points of the second half to trim Toledo's advantage to a single point, 33-32, at the 8:20 mark. Three different ND players tallied points coming out of the locker room to bring the home crowd to its feet.

• The Rockets needed to stop Notre Dame's momentum, and Davis responded in a big way with a three-point field goal. Moments later, senior Arianne Whitaker rattled off four-straight points to increase Toledo's lead to 40-35 with 3:40 left in the period.

• Notre Dame clawed back within a single point on two other occasions late in the quarter, but layups from junior Tanaya Beacham and freshman Sophia Wiard put Toledo in front by three, 44-41, heading into the fourth stanza.

• The teams traded baskets for the first five minutes of the period before ND strung together a game-changing 6-0 burst to create a 51-46 advantage at the 3:28 mark.

• Notre Dame's Gilbert started the pivotal run with a basket just outside of the paint. Walker followed with a layup, and Brunelle split four charity tosses to give the Fighting Irish a lead they would not relinquish.

• The Rockets did not go quietly though, and had the ball down three points, 54-51, with 15.5 seconds left, but they were unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded.