Seconds into Ohio’s game against Toledo on Saturday, Peyton Guice knocked down a 3-pointer. That shot gave the Bobcats their slimmest lead of the day.
Ohio led from start to finish in the 85-66 beatdown over Toledo on Saturday afternoon in The Convo.
The overwhelming defensive pressure from the Bobcats (5-3, 3-2 Mid-American Conference) kept the Rockets at a deficit for all but the first moments of the game. Two-time reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year Cece Hooks disrupted of the Toledo offense for the entire game.
“We’ve been focused all week in practice,” Hooks said. “We are pressuring the ball way more, and it’s helping us create a lot of turnovers on the defensive end.”
The Bobcats forced 20 turnovers that they converted into 16 points in the dominant win. Hooks led the defensive performance with four blocks and six steals. As it turns out, all she needed to destroy Toledo’s (6-3, 2-3 MAC) rhythm offensively was a talk from her mother.
“My mom’s been getting on me, saying I haven’t been stealing the ball enough,” Hooks said.
Hooks’ six steals were the most she’s had this season after another stellar performance earlier this week against Miami, a game where she stole the ball five times.
The senior already has 19 steals this season, which puts her at seventh in the conference. Every player above her has played more games.
Head coach Bob Boldon has noticed that edge from Hooks in the last two games, although it appeared to him that Toledo didn’t.
“She was everywhere,” Boldon said. “Kids were shooting shots with her standing right in front of them like she wasn’t going to block them, which was bizarro. She was blocking shots, getting loose balls, tipping basketballs. It’s the effort that we’ve come to expect and sometimes take for granted.”
The Bobcats have come to expect that effort from Hooks, because they see her in practice every day. Every other team comes in blind, not knowing quite how much of a disruption the senior point guard will be.
For her teammates like Caitlyn Kroll, it’s fun to watch Hooks dominate the other team.
“Just knowing what she’s capable of doing and knowing she can take anybody off the dribble, we know it and she knows it,” Kroll said. “Its actually fun to watch her do it to somebody else.”
A big win was what the Bobcats needed, both to establish some confidence and to get some more players into the game. Ohio exceeded Boldon’s expectations Saturday.
“We were 4-3 coming into today,” Boldon said. “I expected it to be a tough game, I knew we had to get them out of what they were trying to do.”
With a big lead built for nearly the entire game, Boldon was able to rotate in some of his younger players. The game experience is crucial in the development in depth, and the coach felt like the lack of a non-conference schedule and preseason scrimmages hurt his team.
The challenge has been for the role players who are looking for a place in the offense.
“Them missing out on reps was important,” Boldon said. “If we had a scrimmage, we would’ve played 30 minutes without Erica (Johnson) or Cece on the floor. Those other kids would have had to create shots and be in those positions.”
Ohio showed a healthy amount of depth, as nine different players scored.
The Bobcats will return to The Convo on Wednesday to play Ball State, who is looking to separate itself from the middle of the pack in the MAC. Ohio will try to replicate the same level of defensive intensity to win that game.