CLEVELAND, OH - Senior Ta'Yani Clark scored a career-high 25 points and paced Toledo (14-15) to a 65-60 victory over Ball State (15-15) in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament. With the victory, the Rockets run their winning streak to four straight and advance to Friday's semifinals against Miami (21-10) at Quicken Loans Arena.
"I'm so proud of this team," said Toledo Head Coach Mark Ehlen, whose team will play in the semifinals for the 18th time in the 27-year history of the tourney. "We just continue to play well, especially defensively. Ball State came into today scoring 70-plus points the last five games, and I thought we did a great job on them defensively. They are extremely hard to guard and our ability to guard them was key.
"Another key was our ability to make shots. We did a good job shooting the basketball and making free throws when it counted. I couldn't be more proud of this team."
Clark tied a school tournament record with five three-point field goals and shot 10-of-14 from the floor. The East Pointe, GA native has now made nine triples in the first two tourney contests and is shooting 60.0 percent (9-of-16) in those games.
The Rockets also received excellent efforts from sophomore Lisa Johnson (15 pts., 4 stls.) and senior Tamesha Scotton (11 pts., 8 rbs., 2 blks.) to defeat the West Division co-champs for the second time this season.
Toledo shot an impressive 49.0 percent (24-of-49) from the field, including 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from beyond the arc, and 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the free-throw line.
Clark started out on fire and hit two early triples to give the Rockets a 10-5 lead at 13:36. She quickly followed with another trey to stretch the advantage to 15-7 with 12:09 remaining. Clark's third triple in the opening eight minutes forced BSU into a timeout.
The Cardinals kept the score close and utilized a pair of triples by Audrey McDonald, who finished with 11 points, to take a 21-20 edge at 6:08.
The teams battled back-and-forth for the final six minutes with neither team holding more than a two-point advantage. BSU's Kiley Jarrett hit a runner in the lane for the final points of the half and gave the home team a 32-31 edge at the intermission. The Cardinals were a perfect 12-of-12 from the charity stripe in the opening half, while the Rockets were 0-of-1.
UT's Clark remained hot to start the second half and scored the first seven points to reclaim the lead, 38-32, at 15:42. She buried another triple a little over two minutes later to increase the advantage to 41-34 with 13:52 remaining.
The Rockets remained patient with their offense as the second half reached the midway point and a jumper in the lane by Johnson made it an 11-point game, 47-36, at 10:23. The Sylvania, OH native scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half.
Toledo's lead remained at least five points for the four minutes, until Emily Maggert converted a pair of charity tosses at 6:20 to make the score 49-46. UT did not help its own cause during this time and went almost three-and-a-half minutes without a point.
Ball State further trimmed UT's lead to 53-51 at 4:15 on Jarrett third triple. She finished with a team-high 13 points, five assists and four steals.
The Rockets needed to stop BSU's momentum and an offensive putback by Johnson did just that at the 3:12 mark. The score pushed UT's advantage to four points, 55-51, and the lead never slipped below that the rest of the contest.
Toledo then sealed the victory, making 9-of-13 free throws in the last 1:13.