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.”