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Ohio’s Cece Hooks goes for a layup during Ohio’s game versus Liberty On Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in The Convo. Ohio won 76-72.

Women's Basketball: Ohio wins season opener in unusual environment

As the Bobcats took the court on Wednesday, it immediately became clear that this would not be a normal season. 

The socially distanced benches were on the opposite side of court at The Convo, coaches took their seats on the baseline. There were no staff members folding towels and filling water bottles; instead, the players had their own boxes with those game day essentials.

It took some time for Ohio to adjust to this unfamiliar atmosphere in this uncertain time, but eventually it felt almost back to normal in the 76-72 win over Liberty.

The Bobcats (1-0) shot abysmally in the first quarter. They didn’t make a 3-pointer until halfway through the second quarter on their 10th attempt. Redshirt junior guard Erica Johnson attributed this slow start both to excitement and the unusual circumstances.

“It kind of bothered me at first, but you can’t focus on that,” Johnson said. “As it went on, I kind of adjusted, but it definitely did feel weird to not have any fans or the band. It’s a lot to adjust to, but I’m just happy to play.

Johnson and Cece Hooks re-established normalcy with a characteristic dominance in the second half; something they’ve done many times before.

Once Johnson settled into the game, she was unstoppable. The guard scored 20 of her game-high 31 points in the second half. Hooks added 18 points, 10 of which came in the second half.

The pair dazzled the few family members in attendance as well as the cardboard cutouts that occupied the front row of the bleachers in the third quarter when Johnson made back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a reverse layup from Hooks. 

Head coach Bob Boldon also found himself in unfamiliar territory as he coached from the baseline.

“I guess I did catch myself one time, I was all the way by the basket,” Boldon said. “I was like, ‘well this is a weird place to be, I’ve never been allowed to be over here before.’”

Boldon also had to adjust as he coached during timeouts. The players formed a wider huddle than the usual tight scrum, and the masked coach displayed his clipboard as a teacher would while showing something to a class.

The Flames coaching staff chose a more traditional approach and decided to have normal huddles while rarely wearing masks.

The handful of fans that did come to the game were widely spread out through the stadium. The lack of energy provided by the audience forced Ohio to create its own.

“It really felt like a scrimmage when we first came out,” Johnson said. “We came out, nobody cheered for us, it was just silent. You have to come up with your own energy.”

Now that Ohio has had its first experience with this new format of college basketball, it’ll know what to expect Friday against a ranked Notre Dame team.

“I think this one game will be the shock for me,” Johnson said. “I feel like on Friday it is what it is; we can’t control it, so I’m not going to focus on it.”

The Bobcats will try to use their home court advantage and experience to gain a leg up against Notre Dame on Friday. They also have the advantage of having an actual game against another team, something the Fighting Irish are yet to do.


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