Led By Omaha Benson’s Quinesha Lockett, 12-seed Toledo downs Iowa State
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Toledo’s a very confident group, and now the program’s biggest victory in nearly three decades has the Rockets ready to see how far they can go.
Quinesha Lockett scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Toledo knocked off No. 5 seed Iowa State 80-73 Saturday for the second win by a 12 seed in the opening round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“We’re still dancing,” Lockett said. “We’re very excited. We just know we still have another game to play, and we’re ready to keep playing. But I just know everybody is real excited, and we had a good time out there.”
Senior guard Jayda Jansen said they’re not satisfied just to be here.
“Honestly, we’re not scared of anybody,” Jansen said.
Toledo became the second 12 seed to win Saturday, joining Florida Gulf Coast not long after its win over Washington State. Toledo now will play No. 4 seed Tennessee, a 95-50 winner over 13th-seeded Saint Louis, on Monday night seeking its first Sweet 16 ever in the Seattle 3 region.
The Rockets (29-4) matched the program record for most wins for a second straight season by winning a record 17th straight game, topping the 16-game streak of 2000-01. They also posted their first NCAA win since 1996 in their ninth tournament appearance overall and first since 2017.
Jansen finished with 17 points for Toledo, which used its athleticism to help smother Iowa State’s shooters. Sophia Wiard added 15 points and Nan Garcia 12.
Iowa State got within 78-73 on Denae Fritz’s 3 with 29.4 seconds left. Toledo didn’t make a bucket after Lockett’s layup with 3:35 to go, but the Rockets hit its final eight free throws over the final 63 seconds.
When Lexi Donarski’s 3 missed with 24 seconds left, Toledo got the rebound and Justina King dribbled and then just held the ball as the final seconds ticked off before the Rockets ran onto the court to celebrate.
Iowa State (22-10) came in as the Big 12 Tournament champ for the first time since 2001 after stringing together upsets of a trio of NCAA Tournament teams in Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas. The Cyclones also had the Big 12 Player of the Year in Ashley Joens looking for a second straight Sweet 16 berth.
Instead, the Cyclones head home with their first opening round loss since 2017. Coach Bill Fennelly said he applauded Toledo, the program he coached between 1988 and 1995 to three NCAA berths himself.
“When you get into the NCAA Tournament or any big game, especially, I’ve always said it’s a make or miss shot game,” Fennelly said. “And they made a lot of shots, and we missed a lot of shots. So credit to them, and certainly wish them the best moving forward.”
Toledo coach Tricia Cullop called the win “bittersweet” coming against friends.
“That was a tough handshake line,” Cullop said.
Joens led Iowa State with 23 points and 13 rebounds, including a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line. Joens was 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter. Donarski finished with 13, and Fritz and Emily Ryan each had 11.
Iowa State took its biggest lead at 23-18 and was up 23-20 after the first quarter.
Garcia’s layup put Toledo ahead to stay with 7:52 left in the second as Toledo outscored Iowa State 23-13 in the second for a 43-36 lead into halftime. Toledo led 61-53 going into the fourth.
Toledo: The Rockets also won 29 games in 2012-13. They improved to 4-8 in the NCAA Tournament with their first win since downing Ole Miss in 1996. The Rockets were the No. 10 seed and lost in the second round to Old Dominion.
Iowa State: The Cyclones had a strong argument to be hosting themselves as the Big 12 Tournament champ and ranked 17th nationally. They won their first-round games in 2019, 2021 and 2022 when they lost to Creighton in the Sweet 16.
Joens broke down into tears trying to talk about the end of her career. Fennelly and teammate Morgan Kane tried to console her. Kane then chimed in to defend her teammate as she cried.
“Ashley has had a huge impact not only on the court through her leadership but also off the court, she’s really brought us together as a team,” Kane said. “And when things get hard and challenging, she’s the first one to bring us together. And so really grateful for that, that leadership, and more to come for her.”
Toledo will play No. 24 Tennessee for the second time in program history on Monday night for the program’s first ever trip to the Sweet 16. Tennessee beat Toledo 81-63 on Dec. 18, 1985, in a regular season tournament in Hawaii.
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