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Ohio forward Gabby Burris (#41) attempts a shot during the fourth quarter of the Bobcats game against Western Kentucky on Thursday at the Convo. The Bobcats won 68-60 and advance to the Elite Eight of the NIT Tournament.

Women's Basketball: Ohio embraces record-breaking 30th win after it defeats Western Kentucky 68-60

Ohio players stood near midcourt at The Convo and smiled at the hundreds of fans in front of them. The Bobcats clapped and pumped their fists to the tune of “Stand Up and Cheer” as they looked around the arena and absorbed the moment to its fullest.

The fans and players celebrated something no other basketball team — men’s nor women’s — had ever accomplished in the history of the school: win 30 games. Ohio broke that barrier when it defeated Western Kentucky 68-60 Thursday in the Round of 16 in the WNIT.

Four months ago, such a celebration seemed impossible. No one saw the Bobcats as a 30-win team when they were predicted to finish third place in the Mid-American Conference preseason coaches’ poll in November.

It seemed crazy to think Ohio, who won just 16 games a year ago, could suddenly become a team that just missed a NCAA Tournament bid and has a 1-in-8 shot of winning the WNIT.

But even if that doesn’t happen, the Bobcats can still say they did something no other team in Ohio’s 112-year basketball history has done.

“It’s a big number,” coach Bob Boldon said. “Three years ago, we weren’t talking about 30 (wins). It wasn’t even a thought.”

Now, it’s a reality. It happened after Ohio’s offense outlasted another opponent that was, yet again, unable to keep a full 40-minute pace with the Bobcats’ barrage of shots from any spot on the floor.

Cece Hooks weaved and drove her way through WKU for a team-leading 21 points. Amani Burke led Ohio with three 3-pointers, but none were more important than her third 3 that gave Ohio a 57-50 lead with five minutes left that gave the Bobcats a lead that felt impossible to lose. 

Ohio couldn’t lose it with the way it’s played of late, and it certainly wasn’t going to lose in front of the roughly 1,500 fans eager to watch the Bobcats become the winningest team the school has ever had. 

“Tonight was amazing,” Boldon said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in front of a crowd like this.”

Ohio was right in its comfort zone. Thursday was the Bobcats’ third-straight game at The Convo, which was the venue only because the athletic department believed it was worth it to outbid WNIT opponents. It wanted to give Ohio the best shot at making a promising season, which turned sour when the Bobcats missed the NCAA Tournament, one worth remembering.

It paid off.

But the importance of a 30-win season may not have hit the Bobcats yet. Boldon wants Ohio to focus on the next game with Northwestern, who the Bobcats will play in Evanston, Illinois, but he admitted it was hard to not feel accomplished in front of a student section that was full of actual students and a crowd that appeared to genuinely care for the Bobcats breaking history.

The Bobcats haven’t seen an atmosphere like that before, but on Thursday, they proved no other team has deserved it more. 

“That’s not the norm for women’s basketball,” Boldon said. “Any gym we go to, that’s not the norm. I know that to do that, you got to have a product to sell. And those kids provide a product to sell.”

At this point, anything Ohio does will be a first in program history. The Bobcats have never made it past the Round of 16 in the WNIT until Thursday, and they’re three wins away from bringing a championship to Athens.

It’s unknown whether Ohio will have a shot at accomplishing more history in The Convo, but the Bobcats added another moment to their long list of accomplishments that have made this year special.

Now, regardless of how the season ends, Ohio can say it was the best.

“I think I’m going to be mad unless we win the whole thing,” Boldon said. “But I think the next day, when the sun comes up, I’ll be really happy and realize that this team was really special.”


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