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Women's basketball beats Toledo, advances to MAC semifinals

Shelby Frieszell - Guest Photographer
Shelby Frieszell - Guest Photographer

Most great series end in a rubber match.

The 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. And, now, the 2019 Miami RedHawks versus the Ohio Bobcats.

With a 72-54 Wednesday night victory over the No. 6 Toledo Rockets, the RedHawks set up this season's third installment of the Battle of the Bricks.

No. 3 Miami and No. 2 Ohio will meet in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Friday afternoon. The winner will advance to the championship game.

In the RedHawks first game of the tournament, three scorers got hot and combined for 56 of Miami's 72 points to down the Rockets at the Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday. Junior guard Lauren Dickerson and junior forward Savannah Kluesner had 23 points and 20 points, respectively, while senior guard Leah Purvis put up 13.

They outscored Toledo's entire team, as the latter was unable to keep up. The Rockets never led in the contest.

"The effort and the look in our team's eyes was something that, maybe, I haven't seen in a little bit," MU head coach Megan Duffy said. "I'm very proud of what we showed today."

After nearly two minutes of scoreless play, Purvis hit a 3-pointer to push the RedHawks ahead early. Purvis scored eight of her team's first 10 points, spurring a 10-2 Miami run to open the game.

The RedHawks led 18-11, after UT senior center Kaayla McIntyre made a layup to end the first quarter.

Miami won all four quarters, outdoing the Rockets 18-11, 17-13, 17-13 and 20-17.

While they didn't win the rebounding battle -- a typically crucial element of basketball success -- the RedHawks played a clean game.

They committed just seven turnovers and shot 53 percent from the field, 41 percent from 3-point range and 79 percent on free throws. Toledo gave the ball away 10 times, while converting on 34 percent, 33 percent and 80 percent of its looks in the same respective shooting categories.

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Duffy allowed Dickerson to operate the offense in the half court set, leading to six assists for Miami's leading scorer. Ahead by double-digits for much of the game, the RedHawks worked a more methodical pace. The two teams combined for only four fastbreak points.

"I thought today was a perfect example of [Dickerson] running our team as one of the best point guards in the league," Duffy said.

With three minutes remaining, Dickerson hit two free throws to give Miami its biggest advantage of the game at 18 points. The lead held up, as the 'Hawks won 72-54.

MU redshirt senior guard Baleigh Reid tied UT senior guard Mikaela Boyd for a game-high eight rebounds. Dickerson swiped a game-high two steals.

McIntyre paced the Rockets in scoring and finished with 14 points. Boyd dished out a team-high four assists.

The RedHawks enter Friday with a 1-1 record against the Ohio Bobcats this season. In a rare occurrence for college hoops, each team beat the other on the road. Miami claimed a 67-61 victory at Ohio on Jan. 30 before the Bobcats returned the favor, winning 70-66 at Millett Hall on March 6.

This is the second consecutive season the RedHawks and the Bobcats have played each other in the league tournament, with Miami claiming last year's quarterfinals matchup.

Last year, Miami's MAC Tournament run came to an end in the semifinals, with a 61-58 loss to top-seeded Central Michigan. The RedHawks will look to avoid the same fate on Friday.

"We've been here," Dickerson said. "Taking that experience -- no need to be nervous, no need to be scared -- we just relaxed and followed the game plan. It's still a basketball game at the end of the day."