After only scoring one point in Ohio’s blowout loss to Buffalo, Cece Hooks felt like she let the Bobcats down when they needed her most. She decided early in Saturday’s game that wasn’t going to happen again.
“I called and apologized for playing so bad,” Hooks said.
Hooks responded to the worst performance of her career by leading Ohio to an 81-71 win over Akron on Saturday night at James A. Rhodes Arena. The point guard finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds and was Ohio’s closer in the game’s final minutes.
Ohio (23-4, 12-4 Mid-American Conference) needed a win. After losses to Toledo and Buffalo, Ohio couldn’t afford to give any more ground in the MAC title race. Akron (16-11, 7-9 MAC) hoped to play spoiler to an Ohio team with a MAC title and a first round bye in the conference tournament on its mind.
Ohio wanted to jump out to an early lead to take Akron’s crowd out of it. The Zips wanted to keep it close and slowly grind out the Bobcats in a close game. Akron knew Ohio was full of talent, so the Zips hoped to isolate it by making Hooks beat them herself.
That mistake cost Akron the game.
With 9:17 left in the first quarter, Hooks made a 3-pointer, and then she made another one and then she made another one. Akron did its homework on the 22.4 percent 3-point shooter, but after a season of defenders sagging off her, Hooks was bound to get better at shooting 3-pointers.
“I knew it was coming,” Boldon said.
Luckily for the Bobcats, Hooks was on her way to a great day because the rest of the offense struggled. The Bobcats were 13-of-40 from the field in the first half, but behind 18 first half points from Hooks, Ohio carried a 35-23 lead at halftime.
After holding off an Akron for most of the third quarter, Ohio had a scary sight with 2:02 left in the third quarter.
After battling for a rebound, Hooks laid down on her side at the end of the court while the other nine players continued to play. Once Ohio was able to help her to the sidelines, the Bobcats had to face the challenge of holding off Akron’s comeback attempts.
While Amani Burke (13 points), Dominique Doseck (9 points) and Erica Johnson (19 points) carried the load, Akron’s Megan Sefcik kept the pressure on Ohio’s dwindling lead.
The forward finished with 22 points and never let Ohio completely take over the game.
That was until Hooks checked back into the game.
After rolling out a cramp on the sideline, Hooks re-entered the game and picked up where she left off. She made another 3-pointer with five minutes left and made sure Ohio never came within six points of surrendering the lead it had the entire game.
The win was not only a spirit-lifter after Ohio’s disaster of a performance on Wednesday, it also keeps Ohio in a good spot come post season time.
Since MAC conference leader Miami lost to Buffalo on Saturday, Central Michigan jumps into the top spot. Following the Chippewas, comes Miami, then Ohio then Buffalo. In the MAC tournament the top four teams get a first round bye.
This is something Ohio needs desperately and hasn’t had since 2016.
The few days of rest Ohio would get before it would have to play would be crucial if Ohio wants to win the tournament. But they still need to secure them.
Ohio plays at Miami on Wednesday. If it wins, Ohio will secure the bye.