With just four seconds remaining in a tie game Wednesday, Cierra Hooks picked up Northern Illinois point guard Courtney Woods at the mid-court logo.
She swiped for the ball— something she does often — and stole it.
She then dribbled down the floor and made a layup with two seconds remaining. NIU raced up the floor, but its final shot missed, giving the Bobcats a 77-75 win over NIU in The Convo.
Hooks’ steal and score came after the Bobcats blew a nine-point lead late in the fourth quarter; Northern Illinois stormed back and tied the game at 75 with a layup by Woods with just 17 seconds remaining after numerous miss free throws by Ohio.
“(Hooks’ game winning steal and layup) was awesome,” coach Bob Boldon said. “I wish, obviously, we would’ve made free throws and it wasn’t an issue, but we didn’t. I think that speaks to the character and the toughness of the kids on the floor.”
After an Ohio turnover with 12 seconds left, Hooks was given the opportunity to force a turnover and win the game for the Bobcats.
Hooks finished the game with a quiet 16 points. The reason her 16 points were quiet, though, was the performance by her teammate, Katie Barker.
Barker, who has struggled to find her shooting stroke all season, scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Her previous career high was 18 points, which she has done three times.
“I just felt good in warmups and I’ve been shooting a lot more in practice,” Barker said. “So yeah, it feels good to finally break the seal open, get some shots going.”
This season has been a frustrating one for Barker, a career 33.2 percent 3-point shooter.
She was due for a breakout game. It wasn’t a matter of if she was going to start connecting from 3-point range, but when.
She’s on no shooting restriction and is largely considered the best shooter on the team. To breakout, all she did is what shooters do to get out of a slump: she shot her shot.
“I’ve had a feeling a hot night was coming soon for the last six weeks and it hadn’t come,” Boldon said. “But I’m glad it came. Katie and (Dominique Doseck) are as frustrated as anybody with their shooting percentage, but to their credit, they keep working and keep trying.”
And if not for Barker’s big night, the steal and basket by Hooks would have never happened. But due to a lack of shooting well all season, Ohio has relied on its defense to win it games.
It was fitting that even though the Bobcats finally found their shooting touch, a defensive steal and layup won the game — again. It happened at Marshall as well.
“It’s bizarre,” Boldon said. “It’s completely bizarre.”