The game had been all but over. But Ohio still had a record to break.
With five minutes left in Thursday’s game against Notre Dame, freshman forward Alexis Stover stole the ball and made a layup. She got the Bobcats’ 24th steal. The record was broken.
Ohio defeated Notre Dame College 93-37 in The Convo after its defense tallied 25 steals, which broke the program record for most steals in a game. The previous record was set at home in 2005 against Western Michigan, when Ohio totaled 23 steals.
Coach Bob Boldon had the Bobcats playing the Falcons tight on the perimeter, forcing the Falcons to commit 37 turnovers.
“We’ve been working on playing up the line a little bit more, being more aggressive in the passing lanes,” Boldon said. “And I think it showed.”
Ohio denied passing lanes, and when Notre Dame decided to take a risk, the Bobcats usually stole the ball. Despite not having a bonafide rim protector to help inside, the Bobcats have shown early in the season why they can be a quality defensive team.
Before the season started, Boldon had improving defense a priority for the team. He knew the Bobcats’ offensive production would improve eventually.
Well, it has as this season begins.
Tight defense helped the Bobcats score easy points; they scored 39 points off turnovers. The offense flowed like a stream does through a forest as the Bobcats moved around the floor, looking for the best shot they could get.
“Once our defense clicks, our offense clicks,” junior forward Kendall Jessing said. “We really focus on working on that end, whether it’s steals, rebounds, high-ball pressure.”
After shooting 35.3 percent from the field against High Point, Ohio’s shooting numbers improved, just as Boldon thought they would. The Bobcats still didn’t shoot particularly well – they shot 43.2 percent from the field against the Falcons.
But they did shoot better, and that’s a bright spot even at the start of the season.
“Our secondary screening action’s gotta improve, but it’s a good start,” Boldon said. “We’re screening decently, we’re moving the ball decently. I think there’s better times ahead of us.”
Perhaps part of the Bobcats’ early success on offense is because of the team's depth. The starting lineup of Jessing, Taylor Agler, Katie Barker, Amani Burke and Dominique Doseck has been a quality springboard for Ohio.
But when the starters come off, the bench plays nearly just as well.
In two games, Ohio has averaged 34.5 bench points. Freshman Cierra Hooks and Gabby Burris have played quality minutes thus far.
“I try working really hard in practice,” Hooks said. “And when I get my opportunity on the floor, I just play and try not to mess up.”
So far, Hooks hasn’t made any significant errors. She’s one of the best perimeter defenders on the team, and her quickness allows her to beat defenders to the basket. Burris has played well in transition, and she scores inside well, too.
It’s only the second game of the season, but as the Bobcats continue non-conference play and with tougher games ahead, Jessing knows the Bobcats need to stay focused.
“We can start to get nitpicky now,” Jessing said. “Recognizing maybe we’re two steps in the wrong spot, so we just gotta really focus in on the little things that we’re not doing so well on.”