There was ample evidence to suggest victory just wasn't in the offing Saturday but the University of Akron women's basketball wouldn't accept that notion.
Instead, the Zips (12-6, 3-4) fought hard and prevailed for a 70-64 overtime win over visiting Toledo (12-6, 4-3) at Rhodes Arena in the opener of a men's and women's Mid-American Conference doubleheader.
"Just an unbelievable win for our program," UA coach Melissa Jackson said. "So proud of my team, how they battled. Defense and rebounding. I kept telling them that in the huddle. I knew our offense was going to come."
After being outrebounded 23-14 in the first half, the Zips ended up with a 35-34 edge on the boards.
Megan Sefcik, a 5-10 redshirt senior, scored 15 of her season-high 29 points in overtime as the Zips (12-6, 3-4) outscored the Rockets 17-11 in the extra period.
"It's a big win overall, coming off a three-game losing streak," Sefcik said. "I think that was the only motivation we needed. For us, this was a must-win game. Toledo's a great team and I thought that second half and overtime really showed who we are as a team."
Caitlin Vari, a 6-foot-1 junior from Revere High, proved clutch in the fourth quarter and overtime when she scored six of her 13 points despite playing with four fouls most of that time.
The Zips survived a near-disastrous second quarter in which they scored just three points — none in the last 9:12 — and trailed 29-21 at the half.
"That was probably the worst quarter we've played all year," Jackson said. "That's not who we are, that's not our identity. Just forget about it and to smile and have fun out there. We weren't going to play like that the rest of the game."
The deficit grew to 12 early in the third before a 3-pointer by Sefcik ended a 16-0 run by the Rockets. Thus ignited, the Zips scored 16 points the rest of the quarter and trailed 41-37 entering the fourth.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Sefcik put them up 45-43 with 7:51 left and Hailiegh Reinoehl's follow-up basket made it a four-point lead.
Toledo's 6-2 senior Kaayla McIntyre scored seven of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets used a 10-2 run to take a 53-49 lead with 3:17 left.
But Vari's layup, off a Sefcik feed, and two free throws by Reinoehl (game-high 12 rebounds, 11 points) tied it 53-53 with 1:10 left. Both teams missed go-ahead shots and the game went to overtime.
A 3-pointer by Sefcik put the Zips ahead to stay at 56-55. But perhaps the game's biggest play was Vari's offensive rebound of a missed free throw, and she was fouled and made both shots for a 60-57 lead with 1:39 remaining.
"I take pride in getting offensive rebounds," said Vari, who had six total rebounds. "I think that really hypes us up a lot. And it gives us a second chance to get more points on the board."
Another Sefcik 3-pointer made it 63-57, and she made 7-of-8 from the foul line to close it out. She finished 8-of-17 from the floor, including 6-of-12 from deep.
"Second half seems to roll around for me," Sefcik said. "First half, I forced a couple shots. Second half, I was just letting the offensive end come to me."