Cece Hooks slumped into her seat on the bench and tucked her face into her jersey. The cloth from her uniform muffled the sounds of boos from the crowd and Bob Boldon’s expletives toward the referees.
Hooks was scoreless and had just picked up her third foul. The Bobcats were trailing Kent State late in the second quarter, and her play wasn’t fixing the problem. Her shots were ricocheting off the rim and her fouls left her team without its primary ball handler. It was one of the worst starts to a game in her career.
Luckily for her and the Bobcats, Hooks’ composure in the moment ensured that the way she finished the game would be nothing like the way she started.
Hooks response in the second half — 12 points, eight rebounds, five steals and two assists — would help lead Ohio to a 63-57 win over Kent State on Saturday at The Convo.
The junior point guard left the court with a huge smile; very different from the scowl she had after the many questionable calls made against her early in the game.
“It was very frustrating because I was getting a lot of bad calls on defense,” Hooks said. “But I was able to keep my composure and play through them.”
Hooks wasn’t the only one who had to play through foul trouble. Teammates Edecia Beck and Gabby Burris each had three fouls at the half.
Having to deal with foul trouble and Kent State’s dominance in the paint was the main reason why Ohio trailed 37-31 at halftime.
Boldon was frustrated with the calls against his star point guard. He knew he couldn’t harp on them, though. The entire Bobcat team had to keep its composure after a frustrating half. The message he gave had to be short and direct because Ohio (15-7, 8-3 Mid-American Conference) still had a game to win.
“It’s pretty much ‘Do your job,’” Boldon said. “If you’re doing your job well, ‘Good job.’ If you’re doing it poorly, ‘Do it better.’”
In the second half, Hooks and the Bobcats did its job much better. They limited the looks the Golden Flashes (12-9, 5-5 MAC) got in the paint. And held their best scorers in Katie Shumate and Nila Blackford to 25 combined points.
A key to the turnaround was Hooks. At that point, Ohio kept itself in the game thanks to Erica Johnson, who scored 22 points and seven rebounds. Johnson was able to help keep Hooks composed at the half, and once her backcourt mate found her groove, the Bobcats took over.
“They (Erica and Ohio guard Amani Burke) always keep telling me to keep my head up, and everything will be alright.” Hooks said.
With Hooks’ head up, she was able to see the space in Kent State’s passing lanes and force a few turnovers early in the third quarter. Hooks said postgame that her stands on the defensive end of the court was what gave her back her confidence.
Boldon loved the change he saw in her. He said he was impressed by her ability to stay locked in despite a tough half and come back to affect the game in a positive way.
Behind the return of Hooks’ stout defense, Ohio shut down Kent State in the second half, holding the Golden Flashes to 29% shooting in the second half. With the Flashes offense out of the paint and off the scoreboard, Ohio was able to squeak past with the tough win.
The victory over the tough conference opponent was a great way to end the week. Ohio’s win over Kent State gave the Bobcats at least a three-game lead over the rest of the teams in the MAC East, and they will rest on that lead this week when they enjoy a midweek bye Wednesday before facing rival Miami on Saturday.
The bye will give players like Hooks some much appreciated time off.
“It’s great,” Hooks said of the midweek bye. “I need a break. I’m happy.”