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Jasm Weatherspoon (15) drives to the basket against Kent State during the second half of Ohio's 68-65 loss in the Convocation Center on Saturday.

Women's Basketball: Ohio's improved zone offense has made it harder for teams to game plan

Ohio’s zone offense isn’t elite, but it's better than it was a season ago. Back then, the Bobcats struggled moving the ball and cutting through zone defenses. 

Opponents knew Ohio couldn’t beat the zone, a defense that consists of players guarding a specified area, and Ohio knew it couldn’t, either.

But this season, the ball and players are moving, and Ohio is comfortable playing against any defense.

“Now a lot of teams try playing us in man, then also zone at times too just to see what works best," senior forward Hannah Boesinger said.

A lack of ball and player movement was the main reason the Bobcats didn't succeed against zone defenses. The key to making a zone defense collapse, or break, is to work the ball to the middle of the floor. If a team has a player in the middle, then it forces opponents to focus immediately on that player.

Whoever is in the middle of the floor is tasked with being the hub of the offense, distributing the ball to either side of the floor. The goal is creating open shots. 

The Bobcats’ hub is Quiera Lampkins. The team’s best player, Lampkins commands attention from the middle, which forces opponents to double-team her, and in return, create open shots for teammates.

Boesinger said the Bobcats have done a better job of finding Lampkins, allowing her to read the defense and decide on what to do with the ball.

In basketball terminology, Lampkins would be called a “slasher,” a player who can relentlessly cut to the basket for shots.

But even with Lampkins’ ability to slice through zone defenses, Ohio’s zone offense would be incomplete if it didn’t have one component: shooters.

Katie Barker and Kelly Karlis, the team’s top two shooters, allow the zone offense to flourish fully. Without the pair, the Bobcats would get stuck inside often because defenders would surround the middle of the floor.

“If Kelly and Katie are open, we want to look for them, and we want them to shoot it every chance they get,” Boesinger said.

Yet even if they're guarded, the Ohio zone offense is built so any player can hit an open shot.

“It’s just how we all work around each other,” senior forward Jasmine Weatherspoon said of the balanced offense. “It’s really just everybody working together.”

The Bobcats’ zone offense possesses every component necessary to succeed: a solid all-around player to facilitate the middle, 3-point shooters and forwards to score inside.

In theory, the Bobcats’ zone offense should prosper. And for some reason, it prospered the most against Buffalo — the one zone Ohio couldn't break last season. The Bobcats lost three times to Buffalo, 

including a 72-60 loss during last year’s Mid-American Conference Tournament.

But perhaps Ohio’s 83-55 win against Buffalo on Jan. 4 was a statement.

The strange thing is that Ohio had not been a good shooting team before beating Buffalo. Before the game, the Bobcats shot 37.4 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from the 3-point line.

Against the Bulls, however, the Bobcats shot season-highs from the field (54 percent) and on 3-pointers (53.8 percent).

Since then, the Bobcats’ offense has appeared strong, but is still flimsy at times. While Ohio (12-4, 3-2 MAC) has shot better statistically since the Buffalo win — and currently leads the MAC East — a 68-65 loss to Kent State at home on Saturday was another reminder: Ohio's zone offense still isn't perfect.

“We’re working really hard to get better at that,” Boesinger said. “I’m really proud of where the team has come, especially from last year.”


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