Ohio’s playing its best basketball of the season.
The Bobcats have won four straight games and eight of their last nine Mid-American Conference contests. Redshirt sophomore Erica Johnson looks like she could be the MAC Player of the Year, and backcourt mate Cece Hooks is right behind her.
The Bobcats are a team on the rise, and they will hope that ascension will continue Saturday when they travel to Akron to face the Zips.
Opponent: Akron (13-12, 6-8 MAC)
Place: James A. Rhodes Arena — “The JAR” (Akron, Ohio)
Game time: 1 p.m.
How to watch: ESPN3
How to listen: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ohio/
Meet the opponent
Head Coach: Melissa Jackson (second season)
25 Jordyn Dawson
03 Shaunay Edmonds
05 Haliegh Reinoehl
12 Shayna Harmon
24 Caitlin Vari
13 Lonasia Brewer
02 Alyssa Clay
01 Kendall Miller
20 Gabrielle Brown-Mitchell
33 Colleen Neitzel
21 Molly Neitzel
Individual stat leaders
Points per game: Reinoehl (15.3)
Rebounds per game: Reinoehl (8.4)
Assists per game: Dawson (2.7)
Steals: Dawson (45)
FG percentage: Reinoehl (.430)
3-point percentage: Harmon (.359)
Free throw percentage: Reinoehl (.740)
Team stats compared to Ohio
*Ohio’s stats are in parenthesis
Points per game: 66.9 (73.8)
Rebounds per game: 37.6 (36.1)
Assists per game: 12.46 (12.54)
Steals per game: 7.67 (11.17)
FG percentage: .405 (.414)
3-point percentage: .309 (.328)
Free throw percentage: .691 (.646)
Ohio has dominated the all-time series against Akron, 45-19. The Bobcats and Zips met earlier this season on Jan. 29. The Bobcats won that game 70-57 behind big performances from Amani Burke, Hooks and Johnson. Ohio has won four straight games against the Zips and 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Players to watch
For Ohio, the Bobcats should watch out for Alyssa Clay. While Reinoehl is the Zips' best player, Clay was huge for the Zips off the bench against the Bobcats in the first meeting. Clay led the Zips with a season-high 18 points. Her ability to stretch the floor could be useful while the Bobcats have their hands full with Reinoehl in the paint.
Akron, and the entire country for that matter, should have all eyes on Johnson. The reigning MAC Player of the Week dropped 31 points in the Bobcats win over Toledo on Wednesday, and she’s shown no signs of slowing down. Johnson is near the top of every major stat category in the MAC. Her play has only strengthened her claim to the Player of the Year award, and if Akron doesn’t take her seriously, she may just add them to her resume.
Why this game matters?
Ohio’s scrap this weekend with a team just barely above .500 is very important. The MAC Tournament is a few weeks away and a first-round bye could be an advantage to Ohio. If the tournament started today, the Bobcats would be the No.2 seed behind conference leader Central Michigan. That seeding would give Ohio a bye into the Quarterfinals. Ball State is neck and neck with the Bobcats at that spot. The top four seeds get byes into the quarterfinals, so Ohio should be fine on that end, but the difference between being the No.2 or No.3 seed could be a much different route to the championship.