CLEVELAND — Ohio broke several program records and milestones in its path to Quicken Loans Arena for the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

It wasn’t a record or milestone, but the Bobcats accomplished another feat when they took down Northern Illinois 72-56 on Wednesday night to advance to the MAC Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2015, the last time Ohio won a game inside the arena.

The Bobcats never trailed against the Huskies and were led by Erica Johnson. The redshirt freshman was awarded MAC Freshman of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year awards — the first time both awards were won by one player — a day before Ohio began its postseason.

Johnson didn’t take long to prove why she was honored. She opened the first half with 15 points and finished with a 19 points after she was pulled with two minutes left. Johnson opened with 10 points in the first quarter and silenced the sparse crowd of NIU supporters behind the Huskies’ bench.

But it wasn’t only Johnson who found success against NIU’s defense, ranked No. 10 in the MAC. Gabby Burris scored a team-leading 19 points, her highest in the last eight games, grabbed five rebounds and joined three other Bobcats — Johnson, Amani Burke and Cece Hooks — in eclipsing double-digit points.

Ohio deserved credit for its defensive play, too. The Bobcats held the Huskies to 35 percent from the field, found 15 steals and limited NIU’s shot selection with their crisp defensive rotations. Mikayla Voigt, who scored 23 points against Ohio on Jan. 23, was held to 14 points and shot just 4-for-15 from the field.

So, the Bobcats are in the same territory they found in 2015. That season ended with a MAC Championship, and Ohio is just two wins away from winning it again.

The Bobcats needed to clear the first hurdle, though, and that meant finally winning inside Quicken Loans Arena in the quarterfinals.

Stat pack

  • NIU committed 22 turnovers.
  • The Bobcats shot 43 percent from the field but only had eight turnovers.
  • Ohio was out rebounded 48-32.

@anthonyp_2

ap012215@ohio.edu

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