Toledo’s Sophie Reecher, left, and Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, right, battle Creighton’s Jaylyn Agnew for a rebound during the first half. ASSOCIATED PRESS
CORVALLIS, Ore. — In its first NCAA tournament game since 2001, nothing went according to plan for the University of Toledo women’s basketball team. The Rockets never led in a 76-49 loss Friday to Creighton in a first-round game at Gill Coliseum.
A hot-shooting start for Creighton stunned the Rockets as the Bluejays raced out to a 7-0 lead and led by 14 points just six minutes into the game.
“We faced a very good team today that came out in the first half and acted like they have been here before,” UT coach Tricia Cullop said. “And they have. They’re a little bit older than us and a little bit more experienced than us in this type of situation, and I think it showed. They also had an extremely hot hand. It really kind of set us back on our heels the way the first quarter went.”
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Fifth-year senior Marissa Janning, one of two Creighton players who played on the Bluejays’ team that made the 2013 NCAA tournament, scored 12 of the team’s first 18 points via two 3-pointers, two layups and two free throws.
“For me, my college career would be done if we lose, so it’s kind of just having that mindset that you don’t want it to be over yet,” Janning said. “We said it right away that we’ve got to do whatever it takes.
“I came out, and I wasn’t going to let myself not be aggressive and shy away from shots, and I think that was important for me. My teammates got me the ball and set really good screens, and it was just clicking.”
Mikaela Boyd scored 11 points to lead Toledo (25-9), while Kaayla McIntyre and Mariella Santucci added 10 points each.
Janning paced Creighton (24-7) with 19 points, and Sydney Lamberty had 16 points.
After the Bluejays led 27-12 after the first quarter, Toledo trailed 35-20 after a Mikaela Boyd steal and layup with 3:16 left in the second quarter.
But Jaylyn Agnew hit a 3-pointer on the next Creighton possession and the Bluejays went on a quick 9-0 run capped off by two free throws from Audrey Faber for a 44-20 lead.
The 24-point lead was the largest of the first half for Creighton, but a Santucci layup with 28 seconds left cut the Rockets’ halftime deficit to 44-22.
McIntyre opened the second half with six quick points and cut the Creighton lead to 44-28 with 8:37 left in the third.
But Lamberty answered with a layup, then Janice Monakana scored on a layup for Toledo. Lamberty then hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to 19 and after that Creighton led 63-35 at the end of the third quarter, after Lamberty hit another 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in the quarter.
“Sydney hit two really big shots, and I think that was key,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “I’m sure at halftime they were doubting if they could get back in the game, but to come out and go 6-0, and I think they had their heads go right back up. Our answer in getting that lead back from 16 to 21, I think was huge for us and for them.”
Creighton led by as many as 28 points in the fourth before claiming a 27-point win.
For Toledo, battling an experienced team in Creighton proved to be tough for a young team with just two seniors on its roster.
“All season long we’ve faced teams like UCLA and Notre Dame and Dayton, and it really didn’t bother us,” Cullop said of the experience gap. “Tonight I think it did bother us a little bit. It’s not because our kids wanted it to happen, I think it’s just we came out and maybe we wanted it too much. When the shots weren’t falling and the 3s were occurring it kind of wore on them a little bit.”
The Rockets made just two 3-pointers in the game, shooting 2 for 10 from the arc, while Creighton connected on 10 of its 23 3-point attempts. The Bluejays shot 47.3 percent for the game and held Toledo to a 32.3 percent mark.
Cullop said the team should not let this tough loss define what has been a very successful season. Toledo won its first Mid-American Conference tournament title since 2001 and accomplished a lot in a 25-win season.
“Today’s score is not a reflection of our season,” Cullop said. “We played a great team that has a chance to go a little deeper if they want to and they keep shooting the ball the way they did today.
“I want our seniors especially to know how much they represented our program with class on and off the court and I am so lucky I got to be their coach.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.
Toledo’s Mikaela Boyd shoots during the first half of Friday’s Stockton (Calif.) Region first-round game against Creighton in the NCAA tournament in Corvallis, Ore. Boyd finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and two assists. ASSOCIATED PRESS