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Ohio's Kaylee Bambule heads for the basket during the Bobcats’ game against Coppin State on Dec. 8.

Women's Basketball: A look inside Ohio's defensive struggles

Coach Bob Boldon has never minced words when asked about Ohio’s defense.

The Bobcats are ranked No. 7 in the Mid-American Conference’s defensive rankings and have allowed a modest 65 points per game, but Boldon believes Ohio is much worse defensively than the statistics suggest.

“We’re the worst defensive team in the league,” he said after Ohio narrowly defeated Kent State 83-81 on Jan. 17. “Our defense stinks. I’m so disappointed with where we’re at defensively that it’s hard to find joy in anything at this moment.”

Ohio’s biggest inconsistencies have appeared on defense. The Bobcats have averaged 39 points allowed in the second half in their eight MAC games this season, and their struggles to finish games on defense have frequently forced the Bobcats to survive rather than dominate opponents.

The defensive struggles finally bit Ohio on Wednesday against Miami. The Bobcats held RedHawks’ star Lauren Dickerson to eight points in the first half, but when Ohio became sluggish in its defensive transitions in the second half, Dickerson exploded. 

The speedy guard responded with 21 points in the final two quarters and helped Miami overcome a 10-point halftime deficit. When Leah Purvis was left unguarded for a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead 65-61 with 12 seconds left, Ohio’s night was all but over.

Ohio previously overcame lapses on defense with its No. 1 MAC-ranked offense. But Wednesday showed why the Bobcats, who scored only three points in the fourth quarter, need their defense to compete against the best teams in the conference.

“A lot more of our mistakes come from lack of communication or not getting matched on time,” Dominique Doseck said. “Clearly, our defense has to pick up. Something has to change in case we’re not making shots that day.”

Part of the Bobcats’ defensive issues could also stem from injuries. 

Gabby Burris, Ohio’s top rebounder, has battled a lower-leg injury that prevented her from playing against Bowling Green last Saturday and did not play in the fourth quarter against Miami. Olivia Bower, Ohio’s tallest starter and lead shot-blocker, missed multiple practice days this week after she suffered a lower-leg injury at Bowling Green. 

Boldon also said he wasn’t sure if Erica Johnson or Doseck, who battled an illness, would play against Miami 20 hours before tipoff.

With at least four of its six primary players battling ailments, Ohio is far from a healthy team. It’s uncertain whether a fully-healed lineup will patch the Bobcats’ defensive issues, but the Bobcats need rest.

Boldon, however, won’t use that as an excuse. Ohio will never have more than three days of rest for the remainder of the season.

“Every kid is going through stuff to try to get them ready to play,” he said. “It’s a grind. Our league has become so good where you don’t really get a night off where you can show up and win.”

Ohio owns the conference’s best record at 17-2 and is 6-2 in MAC play. A team with such a record usually oozes calm vibes and smooth practices, but Boldon’s frustrations with his defense have prevented him from delivering full praise to Ohio’s success on a consistent basis.

That’s why he abruptly ended practice Monday when he was displeased with Ohio’s effort in transition drills. Boldon used a few expletives and didn’t hesitate to show his frustrations toward the same issue Ohio has attempted to solve all season.

His rant was nothing the Bobcats hadn’t already heard before. If the Bobcats want to fully win over their coach’s approval for their winning performances, they know their defense must step up. 

And if not, Boldon will continue to be direct with his feelings.

“We’re running out of games to get better,” he said. “That’s scary.”


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