Ohio freshman guard Cierra Hooks (#1) goes in for a layup during the Bobcats’ game against Akron on Monday in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
Gabby Burris has said that Kendall Jessing is Ohio’s motivator.
Jessing is the most vocal player on the bench, as she routinely urges her team to get a stop when it needs one.
She’s the one who shouts “let’s go” when the Bobcats need a boost. Before Burris became a consistent starter, Jessing was in the starting lineup. Jessing has as much energy on the floor as she does when she’s motivating her team from the bench. Jessing is the player who moves without the ball well and can run the floor when necessary.
The Bobcats played Akron in The Convo on Monday during the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Ohio’s effort has been low recently. The Bobcats needed to play with more energy against the Zips.
And they needed energy not only from a few players, but everyone. Jessing, who scored a career-high 12 points, was one of five players who scored in double figures as the Bobcats defeated the Zips 85-73.
With the win, the Bobcats advanced to the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament, which will be at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“We knew we had it, we have all the parts,” Jessing said.
The Bobcats are like a jigsaw puzzle. Each player on the team is a piece that makes the puzzle what it is. Jessing’s success is a microcosm of Ohio’s offensive production against Akron.
Ohio has had at least five players score in double figures only two other games this season. One was against Notre Dame College, when Ohio won 93-37. The other was against Purdue, when Ohio won 77-71 on the road.
Sometimes the puzzle isn’t always complete. Amani Burke might be missing more shots than usual. Katie Barker might not be making 3-pointers from multiple spots on the floor. Jessing might not be playing off the ball as well. But on Monday night, that wasn’t the case.
Whether it was Barker making four 3-pointers or Amani Burke not missing any of her four 3s and scoring 20 points, the pieces came together.
Each player did their job to the full extent.
“I thought our kids’ approach today was really good,” coach Bob Boldon said. “I thought we had a little bit extra energy.”
Ohio needed a jolt of motivation for this game. If the Bobcats lost, the season would be over. If they won, they’d travel to Cleveland.
“Instead of having our coaches, our families, people from the outside, or even our other teammates tell us ‘we have to have energy, we have to have motivation, we can do this,’ ” Burke said. “We knew we could do it, we just did it.”
The Bobcats will play Miami on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Miami has defeated Ohio twice this season; once at home and once on the road.
The Bobcats have struggled against Miami, particularly because of the offensive combo of Lauren Dickerson and Kendall McCoy. The last time the two teams played, Dickerson and McCoy scored 21 points each.
Boldon knows that the duo will score, but he also knows that Ohio has to at least slow them down. If the Bobcats can hold one of the players to below 20 points, then they’ll be in a position to win.
The RedHawks have played against the Bobcats well. For the Bobcats, guarding Dickerson and McCoy has been the primary issue.
Still, Jessing believes that Miami hasn’t seen the Bobcats’ complete puzzle.
“I don’t think they’ve seen our best game yet,” Jessing said. “So as long as we go in there with confidence, we should get the outcome we want.”