Women’s basketball: Bobcats survive Kent State, win 79-78

Women's basketball: Bobcats survive Kent State, win 79-78

 

Taylor Agler pushes past Kent’s Alexa Golden during Ohio’s game against Kent State on Feb. 21. The Bobcats won 79-78.

 

Bob Boldon sat in his press conference, his hands buried in his face.

For Ohio, playing in close Mid-American Conference games hasn’t been a one or even two-time occurrence. No, it’s been a regularity.

On Wednesday, the Bobcats were in another game that was decided in the final seconds. As the Golden Flashes looked for a potential game-winner on the final possession, Kent State’s McKenna Stephens received the ball at the top of the 3-point arc.

Cierra Hooks contested the shot as she tried to avoid fouling Stephens. Stephens missed, and the Bobcats won 79-78 in The Convo.

“If we would have played this game in November, I’d probably be grumpy and upset about the number of points we gave up,” Boldon said. “I think at the end of February you look at it and you say ‘Thank goodness we won. Let’s get out of here.’”

As Hooks sat in her press conference after the game, she was asked a question about Stephens’ shot at the end.

She sighed in relief as she remembered the play that could have gave Kent State the win.

“I was scared,” Hooks said. “I thought she made it because she made a big shot that pushed them up by three.”

Stephens made a layup with under three minutes left to give the Flashes a 75-72 lead. But then Amani Burke made a 3-pointer on the next possession to tie the game at 75. Hooks scored a layup a few possessions later, which put Ohio up by two. But then on the next possession, Hooks fouled Kent State guard Tyra James.

James made one free throw, and a few possessions later, Stephens made another jumper. Ohio was down 78-77 with 1:13 left in the game, and it needed a bucket.

On Jan. 6, Taylor Agler scored the game-winning layup and free throw against Akron. As a redshirt senior, Agler has experience. That experience, her poise as a veteran, was necessary for the Bobcats in the game’s final minute.

Agler drove to the hoop, and she was fouled. Agler made two free throws, putting Ohio up 79-78. Though her teammates say she doesn’t always exude confidence, they were confident as Agler prepared to take the free throws.

“She gets really nervous at the line, but we all have so much faith in her,” Amani Burke said. “Because not only is she the oldest player, but she kind of keeps us together.”

In a game where 44 fouls were committed between both teams, the Bobcats just needed to maintain the lead. They led after the first quarter, but from there they were outscored.

Being in these close situations and having a bevy of experiences in conference play gives the Bobcats confidence. It’s preparing them for the MAC Tournament, which begins March 5. The Bobcats have three games left in the regular season, and they’re tied with Miami for the fourth seed in the tournament.

The next three games have the potential to be as close as the Kent State game. The Bobcats will play Buffalo on the road Saturday; they only lost to the Bulls 80-76 on Jan. 17.

Next Wednesday, the Bobcats will play Miami at home in what has the potential to be the biggest game of the regular season. And to close out the season, the Bobcats play Akron on the road March 3.

But for now, Boldon and the Bobcats have won another conference game.

“I don’t know that we with the type of team that we have we’re in position to be in particular about our conference wins,” Boldon said. “We just need to take every conference win that we can get, however we can get it. Be grateful that we got it.”

 

 

 

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Women’s Basketball: Ohio focused on earning top-four seed in MAC Tournament

Women's Basketball: Ohio focused on earning top-four seed in MAC Tournament

 

Ohio redshirt senior guard Taylor Agler (#0) dribbles up the court during the first quarter of the Bobcats’ 69-58 win over Bowling Green on Feb. 17.

 

Bob Boldon only needs two more wins to reach 100 as head coach for Ohio. Marsha Reall, who coached from 1990-99, is the only coach in program history to have 100 or more wins.

Boldon has been the coach of the Bobcats for five years, but right now he’s not focused on his upcoming milestone.

No, Boldon and Ohio are focused on defeating Kent State.

The Bobcats will play the Golden Flashes at home Wednesday at 7 p.m. With only four games left in the regular season, Boldon and the Bobcats are focused on earning a top-four seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

“We’re just going to try to win as many as these games as we can to get ourselves the best seed that we can get in the conference tournament,” Boldon said.

Currently, Ohio is tied for fourth in the conference with Miami. But Ohio doesn’t hold the tiebreaker over Miami because it lost to the Redhawks 64-55 in late January. The Bobcats’ last home game of the season will be against the Redhawks on Feb. 28.

A top-four seed is coveted because it would give the Bobcats a first-round bye, meaning they would travel straight to Cleveland instead of playing at a campus site during the first round of the tournament. And then, if they won the first-round game, the Bobcats would make the trip to Cleveland.

The latter scenario isn’t desirable, though. One reason for that is because the Bobcats would have to play at a campus site March 5. If they won that first-round game, they’d have to travel from wherever the campus is to Cleveland for the quarterfinals, which are March 7.

That would be a fair amount of traveling, with the only somewhat desirable situations being playing at Kent State or Akron — two schools that are close to Cleveland — in the first round.

That isn’t likely to happen though because Ohio would have home-court advantage over Akron, and they’d also likely have home-court advantage against Kent State. The Bobcats would still have to make the trip from Athens to Cleveland.

Also, if the Bobcats played in the first round, they’d have to win four games in six days to win the tournament.

“It’s important to get a good seed because that means you showed some discipline throughout the season to earn that seed,” Boldon said.

These next four games will be the most important stretch of the regular season for Ohio. The stretch begins with Kent State, a team that challenged Ohio throughout in the first game of the season series.

The Bobcats beat the Golden Flashes 78-65 on Feb. 10. They started off well in the first quarter, holding a 21-13 lead at the end. But in the second quarter, the Bobcats committed 10 turnovers and were outscored 15-12.

“I think we just kind of lost our focus and lost our energy going into that second quarter,” Dominique Doseck said.

The Bobcats only made three shots from the field in the quarter, so they had to regroup at halftime. And they did. The Bobcats played with energy in the second half and controlled the tempo.

As the Bobcats prepare for the Golden Flashes, playing with energy throughout the game will be the focus again.

 

Women’s Basketball: How the Bobcats’ trap was effective against Bowling Green

Women's Basketball: How the Bobcats' trap was effective against Bowling Green

 

Ohio sophomore guard Amani Burke (#3) drives to the hoop during the Bobcats’ game against Bowling Green in The Convo on Saturday.

 

Amani Burke doesn’t know if trapping would work against every team.

What Burke does know, however, is that it was effective against Bowling Green.

Ohio wanted to use different defensive schemes against Bowling Green on Saturday, whether it was trapping on the Falcons’ ball screens or switching on them. The Bobcats forced 22 turnovers, and they defeated the Falcons 69-58 in The Convo.

“I think the goal was to just put more pressure on them than usual,” Burke said. “Because they ball screen so much, so we wanted to make sure that most of their ball screens were trapped and some of them were switched.”

Though the Bobcats have played good perimeter defense this season, they usually don’t trap opponents as hard as they did against the Falcons.. This is something the Bobcats have done, but they haven’t done it often. Rather, they’ll trap when the opportunity is present.

But against Bowling Green, most of Ohio’s defense consisted of trapping the Falcons near the sideline or near the middle of the floor.

“(Coach Bob Boldon) came up with a new game plan to try and take away our (guards) and some of our ball screen action,” Falcons coach Jennifer Roos said. “They haven’t done that really all season long.”

Boldon has used game plans for specific teams before. Though his Bobcats usually play aggressive man-to-man defense, Boldon did use a zone schemelast season against Eastern Michigan.

The Bobcats have the athleticism to trap, but that’s not something they need to do regularly. They’ve done it before, even if it’s in spurts. But it’s not something they’ll need to rely on.

Still, this specific game plan for Bowling Green worked.

As the Bobcats led in the fourth quarter, they forced seven turnovers to help seal the game. The Falcons shot the ball well from the 3-point line, and the Bobcats’ transition defense wasn’t good.

“We weren’t talking very well or communicating with each other,” Taylor Agler said. “And sometimes we were just getting fatigued and not even getting back, which led to a lot of open shots for them.”

With 7:11 left in the game, Cierra Hooks stole the ball from Falcons guard Caterrion Thompson. The steal led to Agler making a 3-pointer, increasing the Bobcats’ lead to 58-46.

Ohio didn’t earn its largest lead of the game until about a minute was left. The Bobcats didn’t force a turnover in the last 5:27, but they held the Falcons to nine points during that span.

The Bobcats also scored only nine points during that same span, but they maintained the lead, making five free throws in the last 1:58 to close the game.

For Ohio, these are the games that will help build experience for the Mid-American Conference tournament. The Bobcats used a defensive game plan that they don’t usually do. But they executed it well.

“Kudos to them for making that adjustment just for this game in particular,” Roos said.

 

 

 

Women’s basketball: Ohio will need patient, yet aggressive offense

The Value of Patience

Photo by EMILEE CHINN

Ohio’s Gabby Burris drives to the hoop during the Bobcats’ game game against Central Michigan on Feb. 7th. The Chippewas defeated the Bobcats 74-72.

 

After Ohio defeated Bowling Green 70-63 on Jan. 20, coach Bob Boldon knew his team needed to improve on stringing together possessions.

The Bobcats started the game down 11-0, and they didn’t score until freshman forward Gabby Burris made a 3-pointer with 6:49 left in the first quarter. Throughout the game, the Bobcats went through stretches of low offensive output — they weren’t scoring enough points when they needed to.

Ohio scored nine points in the third quarter, but it surged in the fourth and scored 26. The Bobcats will play the Falcons at home Saturday at 1 p.m. It will be the last game of the season series, and this time the Bobcats will need to run patient yet aggressive offense. That’s the type of offense that’s given them success.

The Bobcats don’t like to play fast for most of the game. Still, they’ll take opportunities to run when opportunities are present.

But Ohio thrives when it controls the pace of the game.

A perfect example is Ohio’s game against Kent State on Feb. 10. The Golden Flashes tried to convert on as many transition buckets as possible. In the first quarter, the Bobcats managed the pace well. They didn’t let the Golden Flashes score often on the fast break; they also didn’t let the Golden Flashes rush the offense, which enabled the Bobcats to earn quality shots.

The second quarter was different, though: The Bobcats committed 10 turnovers in the quarter and needed to regain control of the game’s pace.

“We just couldn’t quite get anything going; we couldn’t put any back-to-back possessions together,” Boldon said after the game. “The only back-to-back possessions we put together were turnovers.”

In the second half, though, Ohio returned to the style of play it had in the first quarter. Though the Golden Flashes continued to be physical, the Bobcats were patient. They took care of the ball better and earned good shots.

When the Bobcats played the Falcons in January, the game wasn’t as fast compared to others the Bobcats have been in this season. But the Falcons did play good defense, which caused the Bobcats to falter on the offensive end.

With 1:11 left to go in the third quarter against the Falcons, the Bobcats had only scored four points in the quarter. But with a little over a minute left in the quarter, Amani Burke made a layup, and, shortly after, Katie Barker made a 3-pointer.

Ohio’s offense isn’t built to score a whole bunch of points against the Falcons. But it is built to be patient and aggressive when opportunities present themselves.

Playing that style, the style that has proven to work will be imperative Saturday.

Cierra Hooks: A premier defender with the potential to be one of Ohio’s greatest players ever

From the Ground Up

Photo by MEAGAN HALL

Ohio University’s Cierra Hooks dribbles the ball during Ohio’s game against The Ballstate Cardinals on Feb. 3rd. The Bobcats defeated the Cardinals 80-76.

 

The ball was put in front of her, and Cierra Hooks snatched it.

With under 10 seconds left in the game Jan. 24, Hooks defended Northern Illinois guard Courtney Woods. As Woods neared half-court, she dribbled the ball in front of Hooks.

It was stripped from her hands.

Hooks stole the ball, and she raced to the other end for a layup. The Huskies missed a jump shot on the other end, and the Bobcats won 77-75. As the clock hit zero, Hooks’ teammates met her half-court and wore smiles as they celebrated the win.

For Hooks, a freshman guard, it was the second time this season that she stole the ball and scored a game-winning layup. The first time was against Marshall, when Ohio won 54-52. As the Bobcats’ best defender, Hooks has cemented a spot in coach Bob Boldon’s rotation.

With her quickness, Hooks can guard anybody. She’s the leader of a defense that boasts the top turnover margin in the Mid-American Conference. But because of her quickness, she can also blow past anybody for easy layups, too. When assistant coach Tavares Jackson was recruiting her, he knew that Hooks had the potential to be special.

“I think the fans here at OU have a lot of exciting moments ahead with her,” Jackson said of Hooks in December. “Because I think it’s just the beginning. I think she’s just scratched the surface of how good she could be.”

• • •

James White told Hooks that she was going to be OK. Her recruitment was going to take a hit, but White, Hooks’ older brother, wanted her to know that she would be fine.

During her sophomore year of high school, Hooks and the rest of the girl’s varsity basketball team at Thurgood Marshall High School in Dayton were practicing against the boy’s freshman team. Hooks tore her meniscus during the practice, and she missed most of her sophomore AAU season with All Ohio Black, the team she played for.

She didn’t know if she’d ever regain her quickness and return to normal. White told Hooks that it’d probably take about a year and a half for her to feel normal again.

After receiving interest from Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati, among other schools, Hooks chose Ohio. In coach Bob Boldon’s system, one that possesses a bevy of shooters and ball handlers, Hooks has thrived.

“They have a lot of shooters, and her best ability offensively is slashing,” White said in a phone interview. “I think she’s the best slasher in the country.”

White knows Hooks well because he taught her how to play basketball. White said that Hooks’ father wasn’t around, so he became a father figure for her. The two are nine years apart, and they’d frequently play NBA 2K in White’s room. Hooks would usually choose the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Phoenix Suns. LeBron James and Steve Nash, who played for the Suns, are her favorite players.

Hooks doesn’t like to lose, and she didn’t back then, either. White said that sometimes he’d let her win to keep her happy.

When White played in AAU tournaments, Hooks would travel with him frequently. During halftime, Hooks would go shoot on the floor. Hooks wanted to play basketball, too, so she began playing during the third grade. White has been training her since. They would go to the YMCA and play against each other.

Throughout that time training her, White noticed that Hooks had natural speed. Hooks ran track during the sixth grade, but that was the only year she ran.

“I think that (speed) was born in me,” Hooks said.

White said that Hooks would get almost 10 steals a game when she was little.

“She was the fastest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” White said. “And she had good height, so it was like she was gliding on the court.”

• • •

The first career-high in points Hooks set this season was 22, which she scored on the road against Western Michigan. She scored 15 points in the third quarter and didn’t miss a shot, using her crossover and quickness to drive past defenders for layups.

“She’s good,” Boldon said after that game.

Since then, Hooks has continued to shine. Though she was one of the first players to come off the bench, Hooks has started the past four games. Redshirt senior guard Taylor Agler, who usually starts, has been recovering from an injury.

Hooks’ first start was Feb. 3, when the Bobcats played Ball State at home. The Bobcats were in another close game, as they led 54-49 heading into the fourth quarter. Junior guard Dominique Doseck fouled out in the third quarter, and Agler fouled out with under seven minutes left in the game.

Hooks was one of the few ball handlers left, and she had four fouls. She knew that she couldn’t foul out.

“I wanted to win, so I had to be smart about it,” Hooks said after the game.

She was. Hooks didn’t foul out, and she made 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to help the Bobcats maintain the lead. She set a then career-high of 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Four days later, Hooks bested herself. She scored a career-high 30 points Feb. 7 against Central Michigan, and she also tallied a career-high nine steals. The last time an Ohio player had as many steals in a game was in 2010 and 1985. Tenishia Benson had nine steals in December 2010 against Wright State, and Marti Heckman had nine steals in January 1985 against Toledo.

Hooks has 79 steals this season, and she leads the MAC in steals per game (3.3).

“She’s really a special player on the defensive end,” Jackson said. “And I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone in my years of coaching quite like her in terms of how they affect the game defensively.”

Hooks’ quickness allows her to play tight defense, and it also allows her to easily drive to the basket. But as she continues her career, she still has facets of her game to improve on.

Shooting the ball better will be important for Hooks. She’s a freshman now, but once teams start preparing for her more, they’ll begin to sag off and let her shoot. She’s has shot 21 3-pointers this season and has only made three of them.

For Hooks, though, it’s about having the confidence to shoot more jumpers. She’s had open jumpers sometimes, but she’ll usually not take the shot.

“When she misses a couple shots, she kind of get down on herself,” White said. “She get an open shot, she probably won’t shoot the next one if she missed the last two.”

Still, White knows that Hooks’ jump shot will come eventually. He has high expectations for Hooks, the sister he’s trained since she was in elementary school. For this season, he wants her to win MAC Freshman of the Year. That’s a realistic achievement, particularly considering Hooks’ expertise on the defensive end.

But for Hooks, who has led Ohio’s top tier defense this season, the ultimate goal is much greater. And it’s also another realistic one.

“The goal is to be Ohio’s best women’s basketball player ever. That’s the goal,” White said.

Women’s basketball: Ohio falls 73-58 on the road to Eastern Michigan

Women's basketball: Ohio falls 73-58 on the road to Eastern Michigan

 

Ohio’s Cierra Hooks and Taylor Agler go for the rebound during Ohio’s game against Central Michigan University on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, 2018. The Chippewas defeated the Bobcats 74-72.

 

 

Ohio played a similar game last Saturday against Kent State, but in that game, it maintained the lead despite a mediocre second quarter.

Against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, however, Ohio couldn’t muster enough offense in the fourth quarter to maintain the lead. The Bobcats led for a little over 29 minutes. For the other seven or so minutes, though, Eastern Michigan did.

The Bobcats lost the lead with 7:23 left in the game, and they never regained it, ultimately losing 73-58 against Eastern Michigan in The Convo. Ohio was outscored 30-11 in the fourth quarter.

“Our shot selection wasn’t real good and we had too many turnovers,” coach Bob Boldon said. “Just kind of the things that you expect with the type of team we are. We’re still learning and we’re still trying to figure some things out.”

For a second straight game, the Bobcats hit a offensive lull during the second quarter, only scoring four points in the quarter. That’s the Bobcats’ lowest scoring quarter of the season; the lowest one before was when Ohio scored five points in the second quarter against Akron.

As Ohio faltered offensively in the second quarter against Eastern Michigan, it was similar to when the Bobcats slowed down on offense against the Golden Flashes. The Bobcats scored 12 points in the second quarter against the Golden Flashes, but committed 10 turnovers.

While the Bobcats only scored four points in the second quarter against the Eagles, they also committed six turnovers. The Eagles switched to a man defense after initially playing a 2-3 zone.

All those factors contributed to the Bobcats’ offense not producing in the second quarter.

The Bobcats held the Eagles to 10 points in the second quarter, but the game was tied at 27 at halftime. Ohio never led by more than 10 points; it had a 10-point lead in the first quarter. The Bobcats couldn’t create separation after scoring 23 points in the first quarter.

And as the game went on, the Eagles took advantage of that. They were never out of the game, and they went on a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter. Danielle Minott hit a 3-pointer with 3:12 left, and the Bobcats were down 63-54. Cierra Hooks, who led the Bobcats in scoring with 15 points, fouled out with 2:40 left.

Hooks was the Bobcats’ main source for offense, so from there the Bobcats struggled to score.

“We weren’t quite good enough tonight down the stretch, and I thought Eastern Michigan played a very nice basketball game and got the win,” Boldon said.

Ohio (13-11, 7-6 Mid-American Conference) has five games left in the regular season, and it will play Bowling Green (10-14, 2-11 MAC) at home Saturday. With the conference tournament near, the Bobcats will be fighting for seeding.

A top four seed would be favorable, because it would give them a first-round bye. Heading into this game the Bobcats were the No. 4 seed.

Now, as they are one game above .500, they’re the No. 6 seed. Western Michigan holds the tiebreaker over Miami, and Miami holds the tiebreaker over Ohio.

Women’s basketball: Ohio has quality perimeter defenders to guard Eastern Michigan

Women's basketball: Ohio has quality perimeter defenders to guard Eastern Michigan

 

Ohio’s Amani Burke (#3) attempts to escape the Buffalo defense in The Convo on Wednesday. (FILE)

 

 

As Ohio prepares for its game against Eastern Michigan, the Bobcats boast a luxury that could help stop the Eagles’ offense which thrives on attacking the basket.

The Bobcats have four quality perimeter defenders in Cierra Hooks, Amani Burke, Taylor Agler and Dominique Doseck.

The Eagles are a better shooting team than last season. They’re currently shooting 31.7 percent from the 3-point-line compared to shooting 27.2 percent last season.

But the Bobcats know that driving to the hoop and scoring is the Eagles’ strength.

Ohio will play Eastern Michigan on the road Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Bobcats don’t play many teams that prefer to go to the basket. Still, the Bobcats have Hooks, Burke, Agler and Doseck, four players who can apply pressure on the perimeter and force the Eagles to take bad shots or make bad decisions.

“I definitely think we are going to shrink the floor and make ‘em kick, make ‘em shoot as much as possible,” Burke said. “It’s not going to be super tough trying to guard them with us four out there together.”

When the Bobcats played the Eagles last season, they crowded the paint. Ohio wasn’t going to let the Eastern Michigan drive inside. Rather, the Bobcats wanted the Eagles to take jump shots.

It was a zone scheme, and it was different for Ohio, a team that doesn’t traditionally play zone defense.

Coach Bob Boldon wants to defend the Eagles similarly this season, but he knows the Eagles possess more variety offensively this season. This season, the Eagles are averaging 68.4 points per game. But last season they averaged 61.5 points per game.

“They’ve got a couple kids that can really fill it up now, so you gotta be mindful of them,” Boldon said. “But they still have the same kids that can get to the rim.”

The Eagles had three players who averaged double figures in points per game last season: Sasha Dailey, Phillis Webb and Micah Robinson. Webb was a senior last season, but Dailey and Robinson are both seniors this season. Dailey is averaging 12.6 points per game this season, and Robinson is averaging 7.2.

But the top two scorers, Danielle Minott and Courtnie Lewis, are also the team’s top two 3-point shooters. Both shoot 35 percent or better from the 3-point-line. Last season, the Eagles only had one player who shot 35 percent or better from the 3-point-line.

That was Dailey, who is currently shooting 28.6 percent from the 3-point-line.

“It will be quite a challenge between protecting the rim, but also getting out to their shooters,” Boldon said.

For the Bobcats, stopping the Eagles is going to start on the perimeter, though. Burke said the Eagles are filled with a bunch of players who play like Hooks, whose best ability is to get to the basket.

Making the Eagles shoot will be imperative for the Bobcats. But Boldon also has Hooks, Burke, Agler and Doseck, four players who can defend well in a one-on-one situation.

“If they get stuck in an iso, we’re not going to be overly concerned, we’re not going to overreact to that and just double or leave somebody wide open,” Boldon said. “But we’re going to try not to live that way.”