Ohio faced its toughest offensive test of the season against Middle Tennessee State in the second round of the WNIT on Sunday inside The Convo.
The Blue Raiders owned the 22nd-best defense in the nation, and the Bobcats’ potent offense needed to crack MTSU if it wanted to keep its season alive.
It wasn't easy for Ohio, but it did just enough to work around MTSU’s slow pace and stout pressure to advance with a 59-57 win. It was only the Bobcats’ third win with fewer than 70 points scored in a game this year, and they advanced to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT for the second time in program history.
Ohio entered halftime down 34-28 after the Bobcats struggled to find solutions to MTSU’s defense, which allowed 56.5 points allowed per game. Ohio was met with a wall of defenders when it attempted to drive, and the Blue Raiders shut down Cece Hooks — Ohio’s leading point scorer — to just four points in the first half.
If Hooks couldn’t find a way to the hoop, nobody on the Bobcats could.
But that changed at the end of the third quarter. Hooks scored five points in under five minutes to kickstart the offense, and the Bobcats were able to find better shooting opportunities in the fourth quarter. Hooks continued to sneak around MTSU’ defenders in the paint and scored seven points in the final quarter to keep the Bobcats ahead of the Blue Raiders.
With 18 seconds left, Hooks had an opportunity to make a layup and build Ohio’s lead to 59-55. She didn’t, though, and opted to dribble the ball around until she could be chased and fouled by an MTSU defender.
It only ran two seconds off the clock, and Hooks missed both free throws. MTSU answered with a layup on the next possession, but Hooks saved Ohio with a buzzer-beating layup to secure the Bobcats’ win.
Hooks became the 17th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 points when she sunk her 12th point — a free throw — with two minutes left. The sophomore also snagged her 101st steal of the year, which broke the program record she set with 100 steals a year ago.
The Bobcats will play the winner of Morehead State and Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the WNIT on Thursday at 7 p.m. in The Convo.
- Ohio forced 19 turnovers from MTSU.
- The Blue Raiders were 2-for-11 from behind the arc in the second half.
- Hooks led Ohio with 18 points.