Ohio freshman guard Cierra Hooks (#1) drives to the basket during the second half of the Bobcats’s win over Notre Dame College on Nov. 16. (FILE)
Cierra Hooks is becoming the type of player teams must seriously game plan for.
She is not a complementary player, someone who feeds off others or helps the star player. No, she is slowly growing into the focal point, one of the main options for Ohio’s offense.
Hooks, a freshman, scored a career-high 22 points Saturday as she helped lead Ohio to a 69-54 win against Western Michigan on the road in University Arena.
Hooks is only the second Ohio player to score 20 or more points in a game this season. The first was Dominique Doseck, who scored a career-high 27 at home against Toledo on Dec. 31.
Leading 23-17 at the half, the Bobcat offense found quality shots in the third quarter, one where it shot 67 percent from the field. With the Bobcats holding the Broncos below 20 points in the first half, they were in a familiar position.
On Wednesday, when Ohio played against Toledo on the road, it held Toledo to 19 points in the first half. Then the Bobcats were outscored 56-30 in the second half.
But against the Broncos, the Bobcats didn’t lose their momentum. They only continued it, and outscored the Broncos 24-13 in the third quarter.
Hooks became the player the Broncos needed to focus on and stop.
But as she blew past the Broncos with crossovers and layups, Hooks was difficult to contain. She scored 15 points in the third quarter, and she didn’t miss a shot.
Coach Bob Boldon had a simple response for Hooks’ career game.
“She’s good,” Boldon said.
Well, she is.
Standing at 5-foot-8, she entered Saturday as Ohio’s leading rebounder with 5.0 rebounds per game. And while she comes off the bench, she’s the second leading scorer on the team behind Amani Burke.
Hooks is a deft guard, able to maneuver through defenses with her quickness. The Bobcats needed her ability to get to the basket Saturday, particularly because of the Broncos’ size.
But the Broncos had few answers for her. Hooks was the cog in the Bobcats’ offense, especially in the third quarter. The Bobcats began the quarter on a 12-0 run, and they adjusted to the Broncos taking away driving lanes.
The Bobcats learned from their game against the Rockets. The defensive first half they had against the Rockets and Broncos were similar.
The difference against the Broncos, though? The Bobcats kept finding ways to score, and they were able to maintain the lead because of that.
Having earned a quality win on the road, the Bobcats (9-7, 3-2 Mid-American Conference) will have to prepare quickly for one of the MAC’s elite squads: Buffalo.
The Bulls (13-3, 4-1 MAC) are atop the MAC East, and the Bobcats have lost four of their past five meetings, including a 72-60 loss in the 2016 MAC Tournament quarterfinals.
Ohio will play Buffalo in The Convo on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“They’re good, man,” Boldon said about Buffalo. “They’re really, really good. I mean Western (Michigan) was 3-1, Central (Michigan) is good, Toledo is good. They just keep coming.”