Strong fourth quarter lifts Rockets to Championship over Huskies - Mar 13, 2017
Sophomore guard Mikaela Boyd (5'7''-G-96) scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Toledo to an 82-71 victory over No. 4 seed Northern Illinois in the championship game of Mid-American Conference Women's Basketball Tournament action at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Saturday. It is the first MAC Championship for the No. 6 seed Rockets since 2001, and the first ever for Tricia Cullop in her 17 seasons as a head coach. Sophomore guard Olivia Cunningham added 20 points and freshman guard Mariella Santucci (5'6''-G-97) chipped in with 13 for Toledo, which trailed by one point after three quarters but outscored the Huskies 34-22 in the final 10 minutes to claim the victory. Boyd was named the tournament MVP, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Santucci Toledo (25-8) broke open a close game with a 14-0 midway through the fourth quarter that turned a 54-50 deficit into a 64-54 lead. Northern Illinois (21-11) never got closer than eight points the rest of the way. Toledo's defense was the key factor as the Rockets held NIU to just 31.6 percent shooting from the field. Junior center Kaayla McIntyre (6'2''-C-97) led the defense with a career-high six blocks and 11 rebounds. Toledo controlled the boards by a 50-42 margin. Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first half, which was played to a 30-30 stalemate. The Rockets made 13-of-36 (36.1%) from the floor, while NIU connected on just 11-of-40 (27.5%). Toledo edged out to an 8-4 lead on a jumper by junior guard Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott (5'10''-G-95) at the 5:42 mark. The Huskies struggled early against the Rockets' pressure defense, hitting just two of their first 15 shots from the field. But they began to find the mark as the quarter wound down, taking a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Both teams began to warm up in the second quarter. UT used a 12-5 run to open the period to take a 24-18 lead, culminated by a fast-break layup by Boyd at the 5:20 mark. The lead moved to seven, 30-23, on back-to-back three-pointers by Cunningham, the second forcing an NIU timeout with 2:09 left in the half. The Huskies finished the half on a 7-0 to knot the score at 30-30 at halftime. Northern open up the second half with a 15-8 run to take a 45-38 lead with 3:37 left to play in the third quarter. Toledo suffered a blow when Bravo-Harriott picked up her fourth foul midway through the period. Toledo crawled back into the game thanks to six third-quarter points from Santucci, trailing, 49-48, heading into the fourth quarter. Toledo surged into the lead early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 14-0 run that put UT up, 64-54. The run was capped off by a three-point play by Santucci with 4:54 left. NIU could no closer than eight points the rest of the way, as Boyd took over, scoring 14 of her game-high 27 points down the stretch, including 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
MAC Tournament Final: Toledo - Northern Illinois 82-71 MAC Tournament Semifinals: Toledo - Buffalo 72-65 Northern Illinois - Western Michigan 83-55
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