Taylor Agler and Amani Burke sat in Ohio's press conference following its win over Bowling Green on Saturday. Both had just performed well in a crucial game Ohio needed.
Burke, who had 15 points, and Agler, who started her first game since Jan. 27, were both back to full health against Bowling Green.
With both of them back in the lineup, the Bobcats appear ready to hit the stretch-run of Mid-American Conference play and push for one of each team in the MAC’s goals: a first-round tournament bye and an automatic bid to Cleveland. But they’ll continue to take it day-by-day.
“We definitely need to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time,” Burke said. “We have to take every game as serious as the last one.”
As the MAC standings sit, the Bobcats are tied for fourth with Miami. The RedHawks defeated the Bobcats in Oxford on Jan. 27, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker at the moment, but they’ll face off again Feb. 28 in Athens. Central Michigan leads the standings, followed by Buffalo and Ball State.
Agler and Burke back in the regular rotation means more flexibility for coach Bob Boldon and his bench options. While Agler was nursing her ankle injury, Alexis Stover, Hannah Thome and Olivia Bower became more viable options off the bench and could continue to be as the MAC Tournament nears. Gabby Burris saw an increased role and even started in the four games Agler was hurt. Burris and Stover couldn’t replace Agler, though. Agler is a fifth-year senior with leadership qualities and experience that is invaluable to the otherwise young Bobcats.
Although Agler didn’t miss any games, her minutes decreased with the injury. Her production was sporadic, too. But she’s working her way back to being completely healed.
“I think every game I’m going to get a little closer to back to how I felt before the ankle injury,” Agler said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to being as confident on my ankle just because there’s been no time to recover.”
Burke, meanwhile, has scored in double digits just twice in her last six games after scoring in double digits in 14 of her first 17 games. She was even held out of Ohio’s Feb. 3 win over Ball State. With her offensive production down, Cierra Hooks was able to fill the void, carrying the brunt of the scoring load for the Bobcats.
The duo of Agler and Burke seemed comfortable on the floor together Saturday, finally seeming to have their health back and their injuries behind them; the Bobcats certainly hope the injuries are behind them.
Maybe the injuries were blessings in disguise. While the two were out, Burris stepped into a starting role. Boldon found out his bench players could contribute if they needed to. Hooks became a realistic No. 1 scoring threat as a freshman.
Whether the injuries were hidden blessings for the Bobcats moving forward is yet to be seen. But the MAC Tournament is just three weeks away, and it’s the perfect time to get Agler and Burke back to the form they were in before. The Bobcats are fighting for position in the league.
“We have a chip on our shoulder,” Burke said. “We just have to play like it.”