MOUNT PLEASANT - Central Michigan was unable to hold off Toledo Sunday afternoon insider McGuirk Arena, falling to the Mid-American Conference leader, 76-63.
The Chippewas (16-10, 10-3 MAC) held a four-point halftime lead, 38-34, and opened the second half on an 8-0 run in which they built a 12-point advantage with 16:58 to play, 46-34. A three by junior Taylor Johnson with 13:45 again put CMU up 12 and the junior finished a three-point play to again push the lead to double digits with 11:25 to play, 57-46.
The tides turned for the Chippewas however, as the Rockets' defensed stiffened and CMU's offense went cold, hitting just three field goals the rest of the way. After Johnson's three-point play, the Maroon and Gold missed their next eight field goals until she pulled down an offensive rebound and finished the put back to keep the Chippewas on top, 59-55, with 6:45 to go.
Another cold stretch in which CMU missed its next seven shots allowed the Rockets to go on a 16-0 run and take over the contest, building a 12-point lead, 71-59 with 1:19 to go. CMU managed just two free throws by Johnson and a layup by senior Brandie Baker over the last six-plus minutes.
CMU finished the second half shooting just 26.5 percent (9-for-34) and were unable to prevent second-chance opportunities as the Rockets turned 18 offensive rebounds into 16 points. After shooting just under 50 percent in the first half from behind the arc (5-for-11), CMU mustered just two made threes on 11 attempts in the second half.
A key factor in the Chippewas' hot start and hot shooting in the first half was from the hand of junior guard Niki DiGuilio. The junior came out firing, knocking down four threes in the first half and adding a pair of free throws for 14 points. A three by DiGuilio with 15:46 to go in the first half put CMU in front, 12-9, and another trey pushed the lead to six just two minutes later.
A layup by senior Jessica Schroll sparked a 12-4 run midway through the first that allowed the Chippewas to claim a 32-24 advantage, but the Rockets scored the last six points of the first half to pull within four at the break, 38-34.
DiGuilio led three Chippewas in double figures with 17 points on 5-of-5 shooting from long range, while Schroll finished with 15 and Johnson 12. Baker scored nine points, pulled down 11 boards and dished out six assists.
Naama Shafir led Toledo with 29 points, while Yolanda Richardson had 18. Inma Zanoguera finished with a double-double for UT, scoring 12 and pulling down 11 boards.
The Chippewas are now in a tie for second place in the MAC with Ball State, which it will play Thursday night at home. CMU's three seniors - Baker, Schroll and Jalisa Olive - will be honored prior to the 7 p.m. tipoff.