On Saturday, Ohio’s quest to live up to the preseason hype begins.
At 1 p.m., the Bobcats face Northern Illinois at The Convo to begin Mid-American Conference play. Ohio is the favorite to win the MAC this season, but with teams like Buffalo, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois throughout the conference, the MAC’s depth will make the next few months grueling for the Bobcats.
All season, Ohio’s mantra has been “unfinished business.” If the Bobcats want to accomplish the goals that eluded them last season — regular season dominance, MAC tournament champions and a berth to the NCAA tournament — they’ll need to take care of business on Saturday against the Huskies.
Opponent: Northern Illinois (4-7, 0-0 MAC)
Gametime: 1 p.m.
Place: Convocation Center (Athens, Ohio)
Where to watch: ESPN+
How to listen: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ohio/
Meet the opponent
Head Coach Lisa Carlsen (5th season)
04 Courtney Woods
15 Grace Hunter
12 Riley Blackwell
23 Myia Starks
34 Ally May
10 Chelby Koker
32 Abby Woollacott
24 Paulina Castro
14 Mikayla Brandon
25 A’jah Davis
03 Gabby Nitkitnaite
Individual stat leaders
Points per game: Woods (17.0 per game)
Rebounds per game: Blackwell (5.7 per game)
Steals: Starks (24)
Field goal percentage: Hunter (.500)
3-point percentage: Hunter (.435)
Free throw percentage (over 10 attempts) : Woods (.857)
Team stats compared to Ohio
*Ohio’s stats are in parenthesis
Points per game: 63.8 (68.5)
Rebounds per game: 41.5 (35.0)
Steals: 8.45 (11.0)
Field goal percentage: .358 (.398)
3-point percentage: .288 (.317)
Free throw percentage: .687 (.621)
Ohio currently leads the all-time series against the Huskies 20-19. The two teams last meeting came in last year’s MAC Quarterfinal, where a double-double by Ohio’s Erica Johnson led the Bobcats to a 72-56 victory. Ohio coach Bob Boldon is 6-3 against the Huskies and has won the last three meetings.
Players to watch for
For Ohio, Erica Johnson has always had the Huskies’ number. It was in DeKalb last season when the redshirt sophomore notched her first double-double. After dropping 26 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists in Ohio’s blowout win, one might have thought the Huskies would be more keen on stopping Johnson in a potential rematch. The Huskies keyed in on Johnson when Ohio met NIU in the MAC quarterfinal, but Johnson’s 18 points and 10 rebounds only showed that the Huskies have more studying to do.
NIU’s best weapon against the Bobcats is Courntey Woods. The redshirt-senior owns the NIU record for 3-pointers in a season (105) but also can put the ball on the floor. She currently ranks fourth amongst the MAC’s best scorers with 17 points a game. She’s also NIU’s best passer. NIU’s offense is the worst in the conference, but that doesn’t mean that the Huskies don’t have a skilled bucket-getter to give the Bobcats fits.
Why is this game important?
It’s been some time since Ohio’s had a lot of hype.
Last season, the Bobcats stunned doubters on their way to a school-record 30 wins. This season, however, the expectations — and the target — is bigger.
Ohio took many risks with its schedule. Road trips against power five schools such as: Syracuse, TCU and Pittsburgh are the main reason why Ohio’s 7-4 entering conference play and not undefeated like the year before. Now is when Ohio needs to flex its muscles and showcase the dominance that its expected to show this season.
Two wins against Power Five schools are impressive if the Bobcats need a push to the NCAA Tournament, but clearing out and claiming the throne one of the deepest mid-majors in basketball will leave no doubt that the Bobcats deserve to go dancing.