Women’s basketball: Ohio knows NIU will play fast — energetic defense will be the key

Women's basketball: Ohio knows NIU will play fast -- energetic defense will be the key

 

Ohio’s Taylor Agler (#0) attempts to escape Buffalo defense in a MAC game against Buffalo at The Convo on Jan. 17, 2018. Buffalo would go on to win the game 67-63.

 

As Wednesday’s game against Northern Illinois approaches, Katie Barker and Ohio’s other veterans will remember the loss.

It was the quarterfinals of the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament, and the Bobcats were down 72-71 against the Huskies with 11 seconds left. The Bobcats passed the ball up the floor, and then-freshman guard Amani Burke received the ball in the corner for a potential game-winning 3-pointer. She missed.

“It hurt a lot,” Barker said. “So, coming out got a little more of an edge on our should from that. And just bringing a lot of intensity.”

The Bobcats will play the Huskies in The Convo at 7 p.m., and both teams are different compared to last season. Ohio won’t have its 2017 senior class: Quiera Lampkins, Jasmine Weatherspoon, Yamonie Jenkins, Hannah Boesinger and Tmisht Stinson.

Northern Illinois won’t have Ally Lehman, who was its leading scorer last season and the No. 3 scorer in the MAC. Lehman scored 17 points against the Bobcats in the quarterfinals.

Despite the Huskies losing Lehman and two other seniors, the Bobcats (10-8, 4-3 MAC) know they will still be tasked with defending the Huskies’ fast-paced style.

This season, Ohio has been able to adapt to different paces. If the Bobcats play a team that doesn’t play very fast, they can still earn the shots they want. The Bobcats’ half-court offense has improved from the beginning of the season, which allows them to be patient on that end.

The Huskies are going to play faster than teams like Bowling Green or Western Michigan. Still, the Bobcats will play at the pace of play that will best suit them, no matter how fast the other team plays.

“The difference is on defense, you have to play as fast as they play offensively,” coach Bob Boldon said.

For however long — and energetic — the Huskies want to play on offense, the Bobcats will have to match that effort on defense. Their MAC-leading turnover margin will have to be on display, a strength that didn’t show against Bowling Green until the fourth quarter.

Ohio averages 13.3 steals per game, and through the first three quarters against Bowling Green on Saturday, it only had four steals.

But in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats had five steals.

“That’s how we should be every single time,” Barker said. “It’s more of a mentality, but just those small things. We can turn teams over, but we have to want to do it. We have to do it every single time down the court.”

When the Bobcats played the Huskies in last season’s quarterfinals, they forced 10 turnovers. This season, they’ve forced teams to an average of 24.0 turnovers. If the Bobcats play the way they’ve played on defense this season, defending the Huskies’ fast pace should be manageable.

For the Bobcats, playing with as much urgency as the Huskies play with will be the key.

“I think once you value every possession, and you play hard every possession, then you have a chance to be a really good team,” Boldon said.

 

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