Black clutch for Toledo women's basketball in OT win over Belmont

Toledo junior Nakiah Black hit two big 3-pointers in the Rockets overtime win over Belmont.

By Brian Buckey / The Blade
Tue, 03 Dec 2019 20:02:35 GMT

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In need of a boost in overtime against Belmont on Tuesday afternoon at Savage Arena, the University of Toledo women's basketball team turned to one of its captains.

With no hesitation, Rockets junior guard Nakiah Black hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in overtime to help Toledo to a 53-48 win.

Never mind that she was just 1-for-9 from the field at the time. Black took passes from her teammates and stepped in confidently to make the two biggest shots of the game.

“When I shoot, I don't really think too much,” Black said. “I just try to stay in the game and not think about 'This is going to be the big play'. I just stay ready and play off my teammates and they went in. ...In a moment when I feel myself going and I just hit one, I feel like I'm a leader on and off the floor. So I feel like they trust me with it, so I trust myself with it and I'm going to shoot it.”

With 46 seconds left in overtime and Toledo trailing 46-44, Black hit the first of her open 3's off a pass from Mariella Santucci that gave Toledo back the lead at 47-46.

On the next Belmont possession, the Bruins got a layup from Ellie Harmeyer to give them a 48-47 lead with 32 seconds left.

Without hesitation, Black sank another 3-pointer, this time off of a feed from freshman Quinesha Lockett, to give the Rockets a 50-48 lead with 18 seconds left. Santucci then finished off the game with three free throws and a key steal on defense.

“She's had a tough go of it here as of late shooting the ball,” Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said of Black. “Sometimes you just need to see the ball go through the rim. And when it goes through you are like, 'OK I got it'. That's all that needed to happen, and after that, I knew we were fine and I wanted her to keep looking for her shot.”

Toledo (2-4) got a big lift from Lockett off the bench as the freshman guard led the Rockets with a career-high 15 points, while Santucci narrowly missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds to go with a team-high five assists.

“My coaches knew the right plays to run for me to get to get to the basket, and my teammates helped me to get open with their screens,” Lockett said.

Lockett played 34 minutes off the bench as Cullop opted to keep her and fellow freshman Soleil Barnes on the court in the big moments of the game, including the entire five minutes of overtime. Barnes added eight points in her 18 minutes on the court.

“Our freshmen aren't afraid,” Cullop said. “They are talented and they are not afraid. You want to keep giving them opportunities because as they continue to learn, we continue to be a better team. ...Quinesha is a great player. She can get to the hole, she can defend, and she can rebound. She's just a smart kid and she sees what's open. With Soleil, she is a great 3-point shooter and today she just missed a few that were rolling around the rim and just wouldn't go down. But what she also did was free up Nakiah Black. When you have another shooter on the floor, you are worried about her now, and Nakiah has a little more opening now for her shot.”

Harmeyer led Belmont (3-5) with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Conley Chinn added 12 points.

Toledo trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but went on a key 16-0 run that got them back into the game and gave them a 38-34 lead with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“I think the biggest key was that they were starting to get tired, and as we put fresh legs in the game, I thought we had a little more energy,” Cullop said. “I knew as the game went on that we could wear them down, and I thought we did. But we were also focused. We didn't put our head down when we were down.”

Both teams struggled to score down the stretch of the end of regulation. After Toledo held a 41-38 lead, Belmont's Kiki Britzmann made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 41 with 1:03 remaining. Barnes then missed two 3-pointers on Toledo's next possession.

With six seconds remaining, Harmeyer set up for a potential game-winning 3-pointer, but was called for traveling before her shot was released.

“Our execution down the stretch today was the difference between winning and losing in our last three games prior,” Cullop said. “We've lost focus. We've not executed and I've been all over our team about it. Today I thought their execution on both ends of the floor was so much better. That's what we need going forward to beat good teams like we did today.”