Toledo makes 1st trip to NCAAs since 2001, beats NIU 82-71 (Mar 11, 2017)

Northern Illinois head coach Lisa Carlsen shouts instruction from the bench during the first quarter of an NCAA college basketball game against Toledo in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

CLEVELAND (AP) Mikaela Boyd scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and No. 6 seed Toledo beat fourth-seeded Northern Illinois 82-71 on Saturday in the finals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the Rockets’ first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2001.

Olivia Cunningham added 20 points for Toledo (25-8), which took down defending MAC Tournament champion Buffalo in the semifinals. Mariella Santucci had 13 points, five rebounds and four assists and Kaayla McIntyre added eight points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.

The six blocks tied Toledo’s tournament record.

”I’m just so proud of our kids because we didn’t have a MAC player of the week all season long on our team,” Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said. ”Yet we win a championship because we are all about team.”

It was Toledo’s first appearance in the MAC title game since 2010.

Toledo trailed 49-48 after three quarters but opened the fourth on a 16-5 run, capped by Santucci’s 3-point play for a 64-54 lead.

Ally Lehman kept NIU close by scoring on three straight possessions to make it 70-62 but the Huskies couldn’t get stops at the other end.

Boyd, who had her 10th double-double of the season, made a steal in the backcourt, was fouled and hit two free throws with 1:48 to go for a 12-point lead.

Lehman led Northern Illinois (21-11) with 22 points, six rebounds and six assists.

The Huskies were seeking their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1995.