Throughout Ohio’s surprising 12-0 start to this season, its offense always found a way to pick the team up when it needed a boost.
It happened against Purdue and Buffalo, the two toughest teams the Bobcats previously faced before Wednesday, but Central Michigan — reigning Mid-American Conference champion — was a different animal.
The Chippewas’ defense stood tall against the Bobcats’ versatile offensive attack and shut down the Ohio offense. The Bobcats lost 88-70 at The Convo for their first loss of the season.
“We could take nothing away from them,” coach Bob Boldon said. “They had a counter for everything we tried. We didn’t take the shots we wanted to take. We took the shots that were convenient for us.”
Before Wednesday, the Bobcats’ offense ranked eighth in the nation in fewest turnovers (166) and scoring offense (84.2 points per game) and was 18th in field-goal percentage. All five starters could reach double digits in points. When the defense lagged, the offense always picked it up.
There were no quick offensive outbursts against the Chippewas. Instead, it struggled to capitalize on Central Michigan’s unique defensive strategy, which included giving Ohio’s shooters plenty of space for deeper shots.
The plan slowed down Cece Hooks, who is Ohio’s highest average scorer this season because of her quick layup. In Ohio’s first 12 games, Hooks found a knack for swinging a game’s momentum because of her quickness to the hoop after a possession change.
On Wednesday, those opportunities were sparse. The Chippewas defense, which entered Wednesday allowing 65.3 points per game, swarmed her drive attempts and gave her nowhere to go. She committed a team-leading five turnovers, finished with 15 points and only scored four points in the second half.
“It’s really frustrating,” Hooks said. “I know I can get to the basket, and I was just letting them get in my head and stopping me from driving. They just took me all out of my game.”
When defenses previously bottled up Ohio’s drives, the Bobcats (12-1, 1-1 MAC) could always rely on their 3-point game to balance their attack. A combination of Dominique Doseck, Amani Burke and Gabby Burris have converted on a combined 40 percent on 3-pointers and provided insurance beyond the 3-point line when Ohio’s layups faltered.
But there was no such insurance against the Chippewas (11-3, 2-0 MAC). The trio’s shooting touch was absent and shot 4-for-12 on 3-pointers.
With its driving ability taken away and its deep shots struggling to fall, Ohio’s offense finally met its match.
“We weren’t mentally focused,” Hooks said. “It was hard for us to fight back, and that’s not our game.”
Although Ohio left Buffalo with a win last Saturday, its offense has seen a significant dip in production to begin MAC play. The Bobcats have scored their lowest shooting percentages, both in field goals and 3-pointers, in their past two games.
The two teams Ohio faced to begin its MAC schedule were perhaps the two strongest teams in the conference, so a dip could have been expected. But it’s still a concerning trend for Boldon, who expects future opponents to play a similar defense as Central Michigan now that the Bobcats’ record has a dent in it.
“They exposed some things that we need to fix in practice,” he said. “And if we can fix those in practice, and this is what it took to get our attention, then I’ll take it.”