Ohio senior guard Taylor Agler (#0) drives to the basket during the Bobcats’ 69-66 loss to Miami in the MAC Tournament in Cleveland on March 7. (FILE)
When Bob Boldon started Ohio’s five freshmen during the season-opening exhibition against Walsh, he wanted to see what his young group could do.
After losing five seniors from the season before, Boldon had a young team. Taylor Agler was the lone senior, and out of the three juniors, Dominique Doseck was the only one who had played consistent minutes.
Throughout this season, though, the Bobcats’ youth didn’t matter as much as some thought it would. On March 7, the Bobcats lost 69-66 in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament against Miami. Ohio wasn’t invited to play in the WNIT, so its season is over.
This season marks the first time since the 2013-14 campaign that the Bobcats didn’t win 20 or more games. This season also marks the third straight season the Bobcats have lost in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament.
“Obviously the last two years have been tough coming up here,” Boldon said after the Miami game. “We provided very good entertainment, coming out on the wrong side twice. But I think that often makes kids tougher and tougher and stronger.”
The Bobcats played in a plethora of close games this season. And for a young team, playing in those games helped provide experience as the season progressed.
On Jan. 24, the Bobcats were tied at 75 against Northern Illinois with fewer than 15 seconds left. Cierra Hooks stripped the ball from Courtney Woods’ hands made the game-winning layup on the other end.
When the Bobcats played Akron the first time Jan. 6, the game went to overtime. Agler was fouled as she made the game-winning layup. She made the free throw, and the Bobcats won 70-67.
Not all of those close games resulted in an Ohio win, either. The Bobcats lost to Buffalo 67-63 at home Jan. 17, and had they made a few more shots late in the game, they probably would have won.
While some of those games are a testament to how the Bobcats must continue to grow, some are also a testament to how underrated the Mid-American Conference was this season.
Aside from Central Michigan and Buffalo — both teams will play in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 — the rest of the conference was close. Any given team wasn’t significantly better than another.
The MAC has the potential to be a good conference again next season. Central Michigan won’t have seniors Tinara Moore and Cassie Breen, but Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost will return. Buffalo will lose seniors Stephanie Reid and Cassie Oursler, but Cierra Dillard and Summer Hemphill will return.
Miami is on the rise, and it’ll probably be one of the top teams in the conference next season. The RedHawks’ scoring duo of Kendall McCoy and Lauren Dickerson will be back.
But with those teams likely being the MAC’s top teams next season, Ohio will be right there, too.
The Bobcats will miss Agler’s leadership. She led the Bobcats throughout the season, helping young players like Cierra Hooks and Gabby Burris succeed.
Hooks and Burris will be sophomores next season, though. Amani Burke will be a junior, and she’ll be set to have a breakout year. Katie Barker will still be ready to knock down open 3-pointers. And the Bobcats will have three seniors in Doseck, Kendall Jessing and Olivia Bower.
“Hopefully next year we won’t be a young team,” Boldon said after the Miami game. “That won’t be us because we’ll have these experiences, and hopefully we’re intelligent enough to learn from these experiences.”