Women’s Basketball: Ohio maintains lead despite physical game against Kent State, wins 78-65

Women's Basketball: Ohio maintains lead despite physical game against Kent State, wins 78-65

 

Ohio’s Amani Burke makes her way to the basket during the Bobcats’ game against Northern Illinois on Jan. 24. The Bobcats defeated the Huskies 77-75. (FILE)

 

 

KENT – With about five minutes left in the game Saturday, the Bobcats needed to extend the lead as they led by five points.

Amani Burke had helped Ohio maintain the lead with her ability to attack the basket. In a game that required the Bobcats to exhibit patience on offense, Burke provided stability.

She went to the the free throw line and made one free throw. Kent State forward Jordan Korinek made two free throws with 4:57 left, but then, Ohio went on an 8-0 run.

The Golden Flashes kept pressuring, and, though Burke fouled out with 1:51 left, the Bobcats maintained the lead and defeated the Golden Flashes 78-65 in the M.A.C. Center.

“I thought she was patient in her shot selection,” coach Bob Boldon said of Burke. “And did a good job of attacking and being aggressive as well.”

Burke scored 20 points, tying the season-high she set Jan. 17 at home against Buffalo. Burke didn’t start the game because she’s coming back from an illness. She played against Central Michigan and didn’t start, either; she didn’t play at all against Ball State.

Boldon said Thursday was Burke’s first full practice with contact in two weeks. But as she came off the bench, she came in prepared. Burke shot 2-of-3 from the 3-point line to begin.

“To have her back full speed, we’re obviously a better team that way,” Boldon said.

Still, even with Burke scoring for the Bobcats, they had to remain poised against a physical Kent State team. Throughout the second quarter, the Bobcats succumbed to the Flashes’ pressure as they committed 10 turnovers.

The Bobcats were outscored 15-12 in the second quarter, and they lacked patience on the offensive end. The Bobcats only led by five at the end of the first half.

“We played a really gross second quarter offensively, and then scored 45 second-half points,” Boldon said. “I thought halftime came at the perfect time for us to settle down and regather ourselves.”

The Flashes were physical, not letting the Bobcats score easily. Any shot the Bobcats took inside was stopped quickly. And when shots were taken away, the Bobcats had to reverse and move the ball until they found a shot.

Burke helped bring stability to the Bobcats in the second half. After scoring eight points in the first half, Burke scored 12 points in the second half. During their 8-0 run, freshman forward Gabby Burris made a layup and was fouled with under four minutes left to go.

As the ball went through the hoop, Taylor Agler yelled “and one!” in jubilation. The Bobcats went up 67-56, and Kent State was running out of time to continue being aggressive.

The second half was different, but that’s because the Bobcats regained patience on the offensive end. While Kent State tried to play fast, the Bobcats controlled the pace better.

“I think the kids deserve a lot of credit,” Boldon said. “They kind of gathered themselves and got their bearings and said, ‘OK, we’ve got to get back to doing what we do.’”

For the Bobcats, making sure they don’t turn the ball over frequently is important. They’re a team that doesn’t prefer playing fast. Having patience in the half court is what they thrive on.

“It’s one thing to say that, and the next thing is to go do it,” Boldon said of decreasing the turnovers. “To their credit, they did a pretty good job. Had some silly turnovers in the second half, but better than the second quarter for sure.”

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Women’s Basketball: Against Kent State, Ohio has a chance to rebound after Central Michigan loss

Women's Basketball: Against Kent State, Ohio has a chance to rebound after Central Michigan loss

 

Ohio’s Gabby Burris drives to the hoop during the Bobcats’ game game against Central Michigan on Feb. 7th. The Chippewas defeated the Bobcats 74-72. (FILE)

 

 

Ohio has seven games left in its regular season, and, since Mid-American Conference play began, the Bobcats have encountered test after test.

The Bobcats are coming off a 74-72 home loss against Central Michigan, and they allowed the Chippewas to go on a 10-2 run to begin the fourth quarter. With three minutes to go, the Bobcats were down by 10 points. Still, because of being in situations like that earlier in the season, the Bobcats were able to stay in the game and even be in position to win.

The Bobcats will play Kent State on the road Saturday at 2 p.m. The Golden Flashes aren’t the Chippewas, the lone undefeated team in the conference. But like any school in the conference, the Golden Flashes aren’t to be overlooked.

Ohio is in the middle of perhaps the hardest stretch of its schedule. The Bobcats are 2-2 in their last four games: beating Northern Illinois and Ball State but falling to Miami and Central Michigan.

After Ohio lost against Miami on Jan. 27, it had a bye week. But during that week, Amani Burke and Taylor Agler’s statuses changed.

Burke didn’t play against Ball State because of an illness, and, though Agler played against Ball State, she has come off the bench the past two games because of an injury.

“A lot of people use the bye week to help, and we did the exact opposite with it,” coach Bob Boldon said after the Central Michigan game.

The Cardinals and Chippewas are two of the top-tier offenses in the MAC, but Ohio held both teams under their scoring averages. Both teams average a few points over 80 per game.

The Bobcats didn’t get the win against the Chippewas, but among all of the Chippewas’ MAC opponents, the Bobcats posted the smallest point margin Wednesday night. Before, the Chippewas’ smallest margin of victory was three points, which came during their game against Northern Illinois on Jan. 17.

“I thought through both games, we showed a lot of mental toughness,” Boldon said.

That mental toughness is something the Bobcats have been steadily acquiring as the season has gone on. They’ll need that mental toughness as they prepare for the Golden Flashes and beyond. If the Bobcats lose Saturday, then it’ll be the first time they’ve lost two straight games since Dec. 16 and 17, when they lost to Furman and Virginia in the West Palm Invitational.

Further, in terms of possible situations, the Bobcats have experienced most of them.

They came back from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter against Akron on Jan. 6 — Agler made the game-winning layup and free throw. Despite having a bad shooting night at home against Buffalo, Ohio only lost to the Bulls by four points. Agler shot a 3-pointer with under 50 seconds left that would have given Ohio the lead.

Cierra Hooks got the game-winning steal and layup as Ohio defeated NIU in the final seconds. The win against Ball State showed the Bobcats’ depth; Agler and Dominique Doseck fouled out in the second half. Also, Burke didn’t play.

Still, the loss against Central Michigan marks a spot in which the Bobcats have a chance to continue building upon their season as the MAC Tournament is about a month away.

“I’m happy with where we are,” Boldon said after the Chippewas game. “Disappointed with this one. This hurts a little bit. But we’ve certainly shown some maturity.”

Cleveland Cavaliers’ aggressive trade deadline deals show potential for success after midseason struggles

Cleveland Cavaliers' aggressive trade deadline deals show potential for success after midseason struggles

The Cleveland Cavaliers made some major trades on Thursday. (photo via @cavs Instagram)

 

This is some craziness.

The NBA’s trade deadline was set for 3 p.m. on Thursday, meaning teams had to decide on trade scenarios before that time. Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers were prepared to make wholesale changes.

The Cavs traded six players and received four at the deadline, making three separate deals that involve the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings.

Deal No. 1: The Cavs traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and their own first-round draft pick to the Lakers. They receive Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. The Cavs will keep the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which they earned in a trade with the Boston Celtics.

Deal No. 2: This was a three-team trade in which the Cavs traded Iman Shumpert to the Kings, receiving guard George Hill in return. The Cavs also dealt Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose to the Jazz and received Rodney Hood. Jazz forward Joe Johnson was traded to the Kings. The Jazz are planning on waiving Rose.

Deal No. 3: The Cavs traded Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat, receiving a protected second-round draft pick.

Well, it was just the kind of craziness that the Cavs need.

For a team that has won six of their last 15 games, for a team that has struggled to play well defensively and for a team whose players were an average age of 30 at the beginning of the season, drastic, yet potentially rewarding changes were inevitable — and they were necessary.

After a meeting during late January that reportedly consisted of players calling out Kevin Love for leaving early during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team’s problems were on display.

During the meeting Thomas, who only played 15 games for the Cavs because he was coming off a hip injury, was reportedly one of the players who called out Love for leaving early. Thomas denied calling out Love, but he did say that he asked Love why he did not return to support the team. Further, Thomas said that he did not have any “bad blood” with Love.

After the Cavs lost to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, Thomas spoke of how the team does not play together on defense. He also said that the Cavs struggle to make in-game adjustments,which was an apparent dig at coach Tyronn Lue.

January was horrid for the Cavs, and with February still in its early days, the Cavs made improvements with the trades. Something needed to happen, particularly because of the Cavs’ apparent lack of team chemistry.

Receiving Clarkson, Nance and Hood adds youth to the Cavs — they are all 25 years old. Hill, 31, is a veteran, but he is serviceable. He is averaging 10.3 points per game this season, and he is able to lead an offense if necessary. What is important, though, is that Hill will probably play more without the ball. LeBron James needs to be in control of the offense most of the time, which means he holds ball-handling responsibilities.

The Cavs shocked the NBA and its fans Thursday with their aggressive, yet potentially rewarding approach to the deadline.

But for a team that likely has one more shot at another title, craziness needed to happen.

Women’s Basketball: Ohio will need to play elite defense to defeat Central Michigan, the best team in the MAC

Women's Basketball: Ohio will need to play elite defense to defeat Central Michigan, the best team in the MAC

 

Ohio’s Amani Burke makes her way to the basket during Ohio’s game against Northern Illinois on Jan. 24, 2018. The Bobcats defeated the Huskies 77-75.

 

When Ohio played against Central Michigan on Jan. 3, it entered the game as one of the Mid-American Conference’s premier defensive teams.

The Bobcats still are one of the conference’s top defensive teams; they lead the MAC in turnover margin and are ranked second in the country for the category.

But going up against the Chippewas — perhaps the best offensive team in the MAC — was difficult. The Bobcats lost 82-58, giving up the most points they’ve allowed this season. Still, as coach Bob Boldon answered questions after Ohio’s 80-76 win in The Convo against Ball State on Saturday, he spoke of how he hoped his team had improved since the loss against the Chippewas.

The Bobcats will play the Chippewas at home Wednesday at 7 p.m., and they’ll look to be the first MAC team to defeat the Chippewas this season. But with the Chippewas’ fast-paced offense, the Bobcats will need to play as well on defense as they have all season.

“We surely didn’t play very good defense, and that’s where it starts with them (the Chippewas),” Boldon said.

The Bobcats were down 23-16 at the end of the first quarter against the Chippewas in January, and the Chippewas had only made one 3-pointer, which is something they thrive on. The second quarter was different, though.

Ohio was outscored 31-15 in that quarter, and Central Michigan didn’t miss any of its five shots from the 3-point line.

While the Bobcats have played quality perimeter defense, they’ve struggled to defend teams that can shoot well.

They allow teams to shoot an average of 33.9 percent from the 3-point line. The trouble in guarding Central Michigan is that the Chippewas move the ball well. If they can’t get a shot in transition, they’re still able to find shots in half court.

The Chippewas lead the MAC in 3-point shooting percentage (38.8), and they have two players — Presley Hudson and Cassie Breen — ranked in the top five of the conference for 3-point shooting percentage.

Trying to contain the Chippewas’ offense will be the Bobcats’ main challenge. Aside from that, the Bobcats are also going will need to make enough shots to stay in the game.

That’s something they’ve improved on, too. In the past eight games, the Bobcats have shot an average of 38.3 percent from the field. The Bobcats have averaged 37.1 percent from the field this season, but in certain games, they’ve shot better than usual.

The Ball State game was one of those. After leading 39-20 at half, the Bobcats were outscored 29-15 in the third quarter against the Cardinals. Despite the game being tied at 59 with just over seven minutes left in the game, the Bobcats regained their lead and won.

They made shots when they needed to against the Cardinals, another premier offense in the MAC. Along with playing good defense, making timely shots is what the Bobcats will need as they prepare for the Chippewas, the top team in the MAC.

 

Women’s Basketball: How Ohio’s lineup flexibility showed in the win over Ball State

Women's Basketball: How Ohio's lineup flexibility showed in the win over Ball State

 

Ohio’s Dominique Doseck drives to the basket during the Bobcats’ game against Ball State on Feb. 3. (FILE)

 

Coach Bob Boldon knew he had options even if Cierra Hooks fouled out.

With 6:37 left in Ohio’s game against Ball State on Saturday, Taylor Agler fouled out. Dominique Doseck had already fouled out, so Hooks, who had four fouls, was the only point guard left.

The Bobcats subbed in Olivia Bower and Kendall Jessing throughout the fourth quarter because the team was lacking players. Hannah Thome was available, too.

But if Hooks fouled out, the Bobcats’ chances of maintaining their lead was meek.

“If I was out, it was going to be really hard,” Hooks said after the Ball State game. “And I wanted to win, so I had to be smart about it.”

Hooks didn’t foul out, and the Bobcats defeated the Cardinals 80-76 in The Convo. Even though Doseck and Agler fouled out, even though Amani Burke was out for the game, Boldon and the Bobcats adjusted. That’s because the Bobcats have lineup flexibility.

Hooks was the only point guard left, but Bower, a junior forward, is a capable ballhandler. She occasionally brought the ball up the floor, and near the end of the third quarter, the Bobcats had a lineup of Bower, Jessing, Alexis Stover, Katie Barker and Gabby Burris.

For the Bobcats, that’s a relatively big lineup. Bower, who is 6-foot-1, is one of the Bobcats’ tallest players along with Thome, who is the same height.

But Bower, along with Stover, another capable ball handler, helped maintain the lead when Hooks and Agler were on the bench near the end of the third quarter.

“We have pretty much interchangeable parts,” Boldon said. “It was just a matter of getting into offense. (Bower) did a good job of it. You know, (Bower) played some point for us two years ago.”

Bower was a freshman two years ago, but she didn’t play much because the Bobcats had a host of quality guards in Kiyanna Black, Yamonie Jenkins, Quiera Lampkins and Mariah Harris.

Bower plays point guard occasionally in practice as well, so playing the position wasn’t new for her. The lineup flexibility Boldon’s roster boasts shows how his offense operates. He has his main ball handlers in Hooks, Doseck and Agler. But his team has some overlap too in terms of players’ skills.

Hooks can defend anywhere on the wing, and Agler and Doseck apply ball pressure well, too. Also, if Boldon wants to use a bigger lineup but be quicker at the same time, he can put Stover on the wing. He did that against Miami because he thought Stover would defend the RedHawks’ isolation ball screen well.

Along with his primarily ball handlers, Boldon also has top shooters in Barker and Doseck. Burke and Burris both possess a variety of skills offensively. They’re able to move without the ball and score, and they can also make open 3-pointers. Hooks is apt at driving to the basket and finishing at the rim.

If the regular rotation isn’t in place, the Bobcats have depth and flexibility that allows them to maintain leads.

With under six minutes left in the Ball State game, Bower hit a 3-pointer to put the Bobcats up 66-60.

Though she’s gotten minutes in the rotation, she needed to be a key player off the bench Saturday. Hooks and Burris, who usually lead the bench, were starting for the first time in their careers.

Bower had only made one 3-pointer in her career before this season. This season she’s made seven, but she’s also averaging the most minutes of her career at 9.8 per game. Still, Burris wasn’t surprised when she made the shot.

“I’d say it’s a part of her game, she can shoot,” Burris said.

Bower’s ability to shoot is just another example of how the Bobcats boast a multitude of skills. The Bobcats’ lineup flexibility, particularly on offense, has been there this season.

On Saturday, it needed to be used to perhaps its fullest extent. It was.

“We got the ball where we wanted to get it to,” Boldon said. “And got good enough shots.”

Women’s Basketball: Cierra Hooks and Gabby Burris shine in first career starts

Women's Basketball: Cierra Hooks and Gabby Burris shine in first career starts

 

Ohio’s Cierra Hooks dribbles the ball during the Bobcats’ game against Ball State on Feb. 3. The Bobcats defeated the Cardinals 80-76.

 

The lights came on after the starting lineups, and Ohio huddled in front of its bench. The starters were preparing for tipoff, but the group had two newcomers.

As the huddle dispersed, starting guard Amani Burke, who was out for the game, encouraged Cierra Hooks and Gabby Burris. Hooks and Burris — two freshmen who usually are the first players off the bench — were making their first career starts Saturday.

“Just told us to keep our heads on straight and play like we normally play,” Burris said Burke told them.

“And she prayed for us,” Hooks said.

Hooks and Burris both had career games against Ball State: Hooks scored a career-high 28 points and Burris scored a career-high 19 points to help lead Ohio to an 80-76 win in The Convo.

With Burke out, Hooks and Burris were in a strange spot. Hooks plays 25.1 minutes per game and Burris plays 23.5.

But being a starter was different.

“We were sitting there on the bench together and we’re like, ‘Wow, this is weird,’” Burris said. “Because we’re normally behind the bench just standing there with the lights off listening to coach from behind.”

Throughout this season, Hooks and Burris haven’t played like freshmen. They’ve fit seamlessly into coach Bob Boldon’s system. Hooks is a deft point guard, and she’s able to blow past defenders for buckets. She’s also Ohio’s best defender; Hooks can beat opponents to a spot and even sometimes rip the ball away from them for steals.

Burris boasts a variety of skills on offense. She can drive to the hoop and score. But she can also space the floor and make 3-pointers. She’s also good at grabbing rebounds and putting them back up for buckets. On the defensive end, she can read defenses and sometimes steal the ball. And she is often in the proper position to take charges, too.

In a game where the Bobcats were outscored 29-15 in the third quarter after leading 39-20 at halftime, Ohio needed its top freshmen to succeed.

And Hooks and Burris gave what the Bobcats needed and more.

As Dominique Doseck and Taylor Agler fouled in the second half, Hooks needed to make sure she didn’t commit another foul. Freshman forward Alexis Stover guarded the ball, which allowed Hooks to not be in situations that would make her more likely to foul. When the Bobcats needed baskets to seal the game in the fourth, Hooks made 10 free throws as the Cardinals fouled to stop the clock.

When the Bobcats needed to maintain the lead in the third, Burris scored eight of their 15 points in the quarter.

The Bobcats’ next game is Wednesday against Central Michigan. Boldon doesn’t know if Hooks and Burris will start going forward, but he knows they’re going to get minutes.

“As far as starting them, I think that’s a conversation that I’m going to have with them, just see where they’re more comfortable,” Boldon said.

As Hooks and Burris finished answering questions, Hooks spoke of how she was nervous before the game.

But as the lights came on in The Convo after the starting lineups, Hooks and Burris didn’t feel like freshmen anymore.

“It made you feel a little bit older,” Burris said.

 

 

Women’s Basketball: How Ohio has defended the biggest teams in the MAC

Women's Basketball: How Ohio has defended the biggest teams in the MAC

 

Ohio’s Gabby Burris makes a pass during the Bobcats’ game against Northern Illinois on Wednesday. The Bobcats defeated the Huskies 77-75. (FILE)

 

The Mid-American Conference is not filled with elite post players and rebounders. Central Michigan has the best ones; Toledo, Buffalo and Miami have quality forwards, too.

For Ohio, though, guarding MAC teams that have bigger players has been a challenge. The tallest Bobcat players are Olivia Bower and Hannah Thome, who are both 6-foot-1.

While both have gotten minutes in the rotation, neither is going to make a difference in the low post defensively.

The Bobcats are coming off a 64-55 road loss against the RedHawks, a game in which they lost the rebound battle 50-30. That’s the second-largest rebounding margin the Bobcats have had in conference play, with the road loss against Toledo being the highest — the Bobcats were outrebounded 53-24 in that game.

But in playing Miami, Ohio didn’t solely falter in its rebounding. Miami forwards Kendall McCoy and Savannah Kluesner were perhaps the best frontcourt duo the Bobcats had played since Tinara Moore and Reyna Frost, Central Michigan’s starting forwards.

Those teams provide matchup challenges for undersized squads like the Bobcats. The Rockets have Kaayla McIntyre as their lead big. McIntyre operates primarily in the post, though. When the Bobcats lost to the Rockets on the road, Rockets guard Mikaela Boyd finished with more rebounds than McIntyre; Boyd had 19, and McIntyre had 10.

The Bulls have Cassie Oursler and Summer Hemphill, but the Bobcats held them to a combined 14 rebounds. As a team, the Bobcats matched up well with the Bulls, particularly in the rebounding category, losing the rebound battle 42-40.

In guarding Moore and Frost, the challenge was that both are good in the low post — they get their buckets inside.

Guarding Kluesner and McCoy was different for the Bobcats. Like Moore and Frost, Kluesner hangs around the key to score. But McCoy can shoot well.

The RedHawks created an inside-out attack Saturday, with Kluesner scoring inside and McCoy stretching the floor. McCoy shot 60 percent from beyond the 3-point-line and scored 17 points. Kluesner added eight points. On top of that, Lauren Dickerson, the top scorer in the MAC, scored 27 points.

The Bobcats have one of the best defenses in the conference, but in a rare occurrence, they struggled to defend the RedHawks.

Coach Bob Boldon thought Kendall Jessing, the Bobcats’ starting forward, played quality defense. But Boldon also wanted to keep the RedHawks out of their isolation ball screen. He wanted the quicker freshman forward Alexis Stover to defend that and possibly help create more turnovers and uncontested layups.

“It didn’t necessarily work,” Boldon said.

When the Bobcats were down 58-49 against Miami with just over seven minutes left in the game, Stover switched onto Dickerson as McCoy set a screen on Taylor Agler. Dickerson drove to the basket, but because of her length and quickness, Stover forced Dickerson into Agler, who came over for the block.

The block ignited a fast break, and then Agler passed to Dominique Doseck. Doseck hit a 3-pointer, which was part of an 8-0 run the Bobcats went on for a little under two minutes.

The Bobcats will play the second games of their season series against Buffalo, Central Michigan and Miami in February.

Going up against those big teams presents different challenges. The Bobcats guarded Buffalo well. The Bobcats lost 67-63 at home to the Bulls, but the Bulls also only shot 25 percent from the 3-point-line. After the Bobcats lost, freshman forward Gabby Burris emphasized how much importance the Bobcats place on their defense.

“We focus majority on defense because it’s a big part of the game and that’s what we’re pushing to better ourselves in,” Burris said.