Toledo escapes with 75-74 quarterfinal victory

CLEVELAND — Senior guard Quinesha Lockett scored 19 points and made a critical defensive play in overtime to lead No. 1 seed Toledo to a 75-74 overtime victory over No. 8 seed Buffalo in Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinal action at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Toledo (26-4) took the lead in overtime on a pair of free throws from senior guard Jayda Jansen with 14.5 seconds left.

Following a timeout, Buffalo’s Re’Shawna Stone drove to the basket and Lockett tied her up on the shot, forcing a held ball.

Buffalo retained possession but its final shot attempt missed the mark, giving the Rockets the victory and advancing them to the semifinals on Friday. Toledo lives on to play in the semifinals Friday.

“That’s March. Everybody’s playing for their life right now,” said Toledo coach Tricia Cullop. “We did not give up. We were relentless.

“They’ve been my Cardiac Kids the last three games, trying to give me a heart attack. But I could not be more proud of the resiliency of this team, their fortitude, not getting frustrated when things didn’t go their way, and clawing back to find a way to win.”

The Rockets’ victory extended their winning streak to 14 games, tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in program history and three wins away from setting a new school record for consecutive wins.

Lockett led Toledo with 19 points, shooting 5-of-7 from three-point range and tying a career-high with seven assists. However, it was her last play on the defensive end that helped the Rockets clinch their 14th consecutive victory.

“I was just trying to contain (Re’Shawna Stone) and stay in front of her because she’s a really good driver,” said Lockett, who was named the MAC Player of the Year yesterday. “Once I saw her going up for the shot I just put my hands up and just took it.”

Lockett was joined in double digits by four teammates, including junior forward Nan Garcia, who shot 8-of-10 from the field and scored 15 of her season-high 17 points in the first half.

Junior guard Sammi Mikonowicz (Rossford) added 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

For the game, Toledo shot 29-of-66 (43.9%) from the field, just slightly better than Buffalo’s 27-of-63 (42.9%) shooting. Significantly, the Rockets prevented Buffalo from hitting a single three-pointer in the second half and overtime after the Bulls had hit 8-of-13 from behind the arc in the first half.

Senior guard Zakiyah Winfeld led the Bulls with 22 points while Stone added 18.

Cullop said she was not surprised that Buffalo (12-16) gave her regular-season MAC champions such a battle.

“We knew we were going to get their best shot,” said Cullop, whose Rockets had to battle back from significant deficits in their last two regular-season games.

“Not everything is going to be perfect in a pretty little bow. But we continue to find ways to win.”