Turnover-prone Falcons fall to Rockets, 88-68


By Nicholas Huenefeld

Special to the Sentinel-Tribune

The Toledo women’s basketball team used a highly effective press to take down Bowling Green, 88-68, inside the Stroh Center Saturday in the 89th all-time meeting of the Battle of I-75.

The Rockets (19-4 overall, 11-1 Mid-American Conference) forced 20 turnovers on nine steals, which led to a 32-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

They registered 30 points off the bench and held a 13-6 margin in second chance points. UT’s starting five combined for 19 assists and just three turnovers while assisting on 22 of 31 field goals as a team.

“I thought we did a really good job the last three days of breaking the press against our practice guys, who offer a pretty good press,” said BGSU coach Fred Chmiel. “Then we got into the game, and we didn’t quite execute the way we did in practice. That is my fault. We will rectify that going forward.”

The Rockets, led by a season-high 26 points, career-high seven assists and seven rebounds from reigning MAC player of the year Quinesha Lockett, have now won seven straight overall, including four in a row against BGSU (12-11, 6-6). They’re 24-1 in MAC regular season games since the start of the 2021-22 season.

“I really just keep thinking back to the one year where they beat us two times in a row,” Lockett said of her team’s recent dominance in the series. “Every year, I want to come out and sweep them the same way they swept us (and keep the rivalry going).”

Sophia Wiard (13) and Hannah Noveroske (10) combined for 23 points while Rossford graduate Sammi Mikonowicz served as the team’s X-factor, contributing eight points, a game-high nine rebounds, five assists and a steal.

Lockett and Wiard combined for six steals alone, which matched the entire total BGSU had as a team. Those two, along with Mikonowicz, had zero turnovers combined.

“I thought our press was really effective in the second half to extend the lead, and I was really proud of how intense and aggressive our kids were in our press to get the steals,” said Toledo coach Tricia Cullop. “When you look at points off turnovers and our bench stepping up, those two stats are pretty telling and a big reason why we won.”

Toledo led from start to finish as the Falcons started the game 2-for-8 from the field with three turnovers by the first media break, giving the visitors an 11-5 lead. An Amy Velasco spin-around, lefty jumper at the buzzer, however, kept the Falcons within five through one.

BGSU’s lack of depth was then exacerbated by foul trouble. Erika Porter picked up her second foul with just over two minutes left in the first quarter, and Sophie Dziekan added her second less than a minute into the second. Moments later, Mikonowicz picked up a steal, which led to a Lockett three-pointer on the other end as the Rockets doubled up the score (24-12) less than three minutes in.

Noveroske closed out the scoring in the half, splitting a pair at the line aided by rare back-to-back lane violations from BGSU, as the Rockets took a 39-26 lead.

Sharps, who scored 19 of her team-high 22 points for BGSU in the second half, helped the Falcons pull within 10 with 6:29 left in the third via a jumper just outside the paint. From there, however, Toledo forced three turnovers via the press and reeled off nine straight over the next two minutes, eventually taking a 66-49 lead through three.

“Mo’s a tremendous shooter,” Chmiel said of Sharps. “She doesn’t need much room. I thought in the first half, she maybe didn’t get off those screens quite as quickly, and we didn’t do a good job getting her as open as we usually do. Those shots are there for her to take.

“She is somebody that we depend on to score, and if she’s not shooting the ball early, then we’re going to be lacking on the offensive end. She stepped it up in the second half in particular and shot the ball really well.”

Porter fouled out early in the fourth, although Sharps continued a strong shooting half for the Falcons. The fifth-year guard made her sixth and final from long distance with 3:25 left, tying her with Francine Miller (1998-2003) for ninth in a BGSU career with 171. In fact, her shooting helped BGSU finish 6-for-10 from long distance in the second half while shooting better than 50 percent overall as a team.

Toledo’s defensive pressure also helped limit BGSU to just eight assists, which is their third-lowest total of the season. The Falcons had entered the game averaging nearly 22 distributions over the past three games.

In addition to Sharps, who pushed her career scoring total to 995, BGSU received 20 points from Velasco, while Paige Kohler chipped in 14. On the flip side, Toledo had seven players with at least eight points.

Cullop was pleased with the way her team limited BGSU’s three-point shooting on Saturday. Outside of Sharps, who finished 6-of-13, Kohler and Velasco combined to make just one of four, and the rest of the team had just one attempt.

“Kohler hit so well against us at Toledo, and Sharps got loose late,” Cullop said. “But it was a big key for us to not allow too many threes between the three of those kids. Sharps got loose a little bit but from the three-point line, I thought we did a nice job because they can stack those quickly and climb right back into a basketball game.”

Mikonowicz is now just five rebounds shy of surpassing Latoja Harris (833, 1991-94) for sixth on Toledo’s career leaderboard.

BGSU, which still leads the all-time series against Toledo 45-44, fell to sole possession of fifth place on the MAC.

No posts to display