For the fourth-straight game, Ohio star guard Erica Johnson sat on the bench to rest her injured knee while the Bobcats took the court. 

But despite not having one of its best players, Ohio’s collection of talent was enough to pick up its second-straight blowout win this week after trouncing Western Michigan 74-52 on Saturday in The Convo. 

CeCe Hooks led the show, leading all scorers with 29 points, while Madi Mace (14 points), Gabby Burris (11 points) and Jasmine Hale (10 points) each contributed with double-digit scoring efforts. 

The 18-point blowout was Ohio’s (12-6, 10-5 Mid-American Conference) second of the week. After blowing out Ball State 88-66 on Wednesday, Ohio is showing that it can still manage to put up points without their second highest scorer. 

Ohio’s success on offense can be attributed to the relationship between Hooks and Burris. The duo are two of only three seniors on the team and have developed a strong relationship over the years. 

“I feel like since me and CeCe are kind of like the vets,“ Burris said. “We already have that kind of bond.” 

Ohio’s senior leadership played a big part in breaking away from the Broncos (3-13, 2-12 MAC). The game was tied at the half, and the Bobcats were also without two assistant coaches, Tavares Jackson and Marwan Miller, due to COVID-19 contact tracing. 

Despite Western Michigan’s lowly record, the Bobcats would still have to make a switch in order to take over the game. Hooks scored 20 of her 29 in the second half and Burris played through a nagging ankle injury. 

“You’ve got to decide ‘Are you going to win or are you going to lose,’ and they decided to win,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “And I think that’s a very encouraging sign.” 

Speaking of signs, Ohio’s looking for one that will indicate when its star player will return to the court. Johnson was considered questionable before today’s game but decided Saturday morning that it would be safer to sit out. The Bobcats face a tough Northern Illinois team on Wednesday and they’d love to have her back by then. 

But Boldon sees a silver lining if Johnson ends up missing her fifth straight. 

After Ohio faces Northern Illinois on Feb.17, the Bobcats don’t return to the court until Feb. 24 to face Bowling Green at home. A week of rest is exactly what Johnson and the Bobcats could use. At this point in the season, winning the MAC regular season seems out of Ohio’s grasp. Instead, its focus is shifting to being as healthy as possible for the conference tournament in March. 

“There’s no value in being a two seed or a three seed or a fourth seed or a seventh seed,” Boldon said. “My general mindset is that you have to get your team to Cleveland.” 

@JL_Kirven 

jk810916@ohio.edu