Ohio’s matchup with Central Michigan is the most important of the season. The Chippewas are undefeated in Mid-American Conference play and are the only team ahead of the Bobcats in the standings. An Ohio win on Saturday would make the conference race very interesting, while a Bobcat loss would most likely end all hopes of a MAC regular-season title.
Opponent: Central Michigan (15-4, 8-0)
Gametime: 1 p.m.
Place: McGuirk Arena (Mt. Pleasant, Michigan)
How to watch: ESPN3
How to listen: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ohio/
MEET THE OPPONENT
Head Coach: Heather Oesterle (First season)
14 Molly Davis
50 Kyra Bussell
01 Micaela Kelly
04 Maddy Walters
21 Jahari Smith
33 Gabrielle Bird
22 Kalle Martinez
42 Mackenna Kelly
11 Sophia Karasinski
32 Shine Strickland-Gills
TEAM STAT LEADERS
Points per game: Kelly (23.4)
Rebounds per game: Bussell (7.4)
Steals: Kelly (39)
Field goal percentage: Davis (.516)
3-point percentage: Bird (.388)
Free throw percentage: Kelly (.800)
TEAM STATS COMPARED TO OHIO
*Ohio’s stats are in parenthesis
Points per game: 76.8 (72.2)
Rebounds per game: 38.7 (35.3)
Steals per game: 6.74 (11.37)
Field goal percentage: .454 (.410)
3-point percentage: .360 (.323)
Free throw percentage: .753 (.647)
Ohio trails in the all-time series to the Chippewas 37-31. The teams met on Jan.8 in Athens. The game was back and forth but looked like it was the Bobcats’ to lose until Gabrielle Bird hit a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining to give Central Michigan a 73-71 win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
For Central Michigan keep an eye out on Gabrielle Bird. Bird was the one to hit the game-winner in Athens a few weeks ago. She’s one of the best shooters in the conference and has a quick trigger. MAC leading scorer Micaela Kelly could be a problem for the Bobcats too, but Ohio is usually sound against ball handlers like Kelly. It’s usually the catch and shoot type players that give the Bobcats the most trouble.
Keep an eye out for multiple Ohio players. Ohio on Saturday will be without senior Amani Burke. Burke has a personal matter to attend to so coach Bob Boldon will have to find out will take her place. Boldon said that it wouldn’t be just one player, but a collection of pieces from the bench. Some of those pieces may be Caitlyn Kroll, who’s averaging 4.7 points per game, Edecia Beck, whose rebounding ability would match up nicely against Central Michigan, and Peyton Guice, whose breakout performance against Akron may have earned her more playing time.
WHY DOES THIS GAME MATTER?
This is Ohio’s most important game of the season. The Bobcats currently trail two games behind Central Michigan. This is their last chance to shorten that deficit. If Ohio wants to win the MAC Championship, go to the NCAA Tournament and complete its “Unfinished Business,“ then it has to win on Saturday.