The UT women’s basketball team entered the 2018 Mid-American Conference looking to defend its title, but a late rally from Kent State University ended those hopes in the first round. The Golden Flashes defeated Toledo 80-76 in overtime.
“This one hurts, and I don’t know what our future holds,” said head coach Tricia Cullop in a post-game interview. “Unfortunately, we left it up to other people. If this is our last game this year, I’m proud of this group.”
Third-year center Kaayla McIntyre led UT with 18 points, with second-year guard Mariella Santucci and third-year guard Mikaela Boyd following with 14 points each. Santucci also recorded five assists during the game.
KSU started with an early lead, but Toledo clawed back with a 13-5 run, anchored by a pair of threes from Santucci. Kent State held on, and the first period ended with a score of 16-16.
The second period was huge for the Rockets, as the team went on an 18-2 run, ending on a three from third-year guard Olivia Cunningham. Kent state ended the run with a three, putting the Rockets up 10 at the half, 36-26.
Kent State came out of halftime much more focused than during the first, outscoring UT 21-17 in the third period. Toledo still maintained the lead, but Kent was approaching quickly.
The fourth period started with an important milestone for McIntyre, as she entered the 1,000-point club with a layup that put Toledo up by six.
Kent continued to fight back against the deficit, but Toledo fought back and scored on the other end of the floor.
Kent finally evened the score at 70 with 27.1 seconds left in regulation. Boyd sunk a layup on the other side of the floor, but Kent answered with two free throws and sent the game to overtime.
Overtime was even closer than regulation, with neither team holding more than a two-point lead until KSU sunk three free throws.
Santucci tried to answer on the other side of the floor, but her three-point shot went wide and was rebounded by Kent.
After making two more free throws, Kent secured the overtime victory 80-76.
“Kent State had the momentum going into the overtime and they played really well,” said Cullop. “We didn’t get the stops we wanted to. We didn’t box out and we didn’t finish. We had some good looks.”
From here, Toledo will head to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament postseason event where the team will face off against Wright State University. This marks the sixth WNIT entry for the Rockets under coach Cullop. The game will be played on March 16 in Savage Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.