Ohio will close the regular season with a trip to Akron to take on the Zips.
The Bobcats have won seven straight games over the Zips, but have lost two straight games and are trying to regain a defensive identity before the MAC Tournament tips off Monday.
Here’s what you need to know about Akron before the 2 p.m. tipoff at James A. Rhodes Arena.
All-time series: Ohio leads 41-18
Last time they played: In their first matchup on Jan. 6 in The Convo, The Bobcats and Zips needed more than 40 minutes to decide a winner, as the game went to overtime. Ohio was down five with thirty seconds to play in regulation, but found a last-second surge to send the game to overtime.
In the overtime period, the Bobcats hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 67, and Taylor Agler scored on a layup with one second remaining to break the tie and win the game. Ohio prevailed, 70-67. Agler had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Amani Burke led the Bobcats with 19 points.
It’s been a rough year for the Zips, but Akron (8-20, 2-15 MAC) is feisty. It’s led by junior guard Megan Sefcik, who averages 11.9 points per game. Akron’s backcourt is its strength. Overall, the Zips average just 64.6 points per game as a team, though.
While Ohio likes to force a lot of turnovers, the Zips take care of the ball. Akron is averaging just 16.8 turnovers per game. Ball security and limiting turnovers have been a bright spot during a rather-dark season for Akron.
How Ohio wins: If Ohio (15-13, 9-8 Mid-American Conference) can find a way to find consistency on defense, it should win. The Bobcats have given up over 70 points in three straight games for the first time all season, and the defense they once prided themselves on is getting worse as the final stretch of the season wears on.
Agler attributes the defensive issues to lack of effort. The Bobcats were out of position and lackluster in their defensive effort in Wednesday night’s loss to Miami, and were outscored 26-15 in the third quarter alone. Of course, that was without Ohio’s all-time leader in steals for a single season Cierra Hooks. She injured her ankle in the first quarter.
Key stat: 13.8
Hooks averages 13.8 points per game. If she is unavailable to play Saturday, the Bobcats will look for other options to make up for her productivity on the offensive end, as well as the aforementioned defensive presence with steals.
Akron’s star: Megan Sefcik, guard, No. 11
Along with Sefcik’s average of 11.9 points per game, her 3-point percentage is 35 percent. The Bobcats limited her to just nine points in the Jan. 6 matchup, so shutting her down will be key for the Bobcats. She doesn’t rebound particularly well or facilitate the ball, but being the No. 1 scoring option for the Zips, she’ll try to find her rhythm to help the Zips pull off the upset.