After a trio of tough road games to start the season, Ohio had a chance to pick up an easier win against Division II opponent Mercyhurst on Saturday, and it did not pass it up in its 90-46 win in The Convo.
The Bobcats (2-2) dominated from start to finish, getting off to a 13-2 start as they shot 60% from the field in the first quarter. Erica Johnson and Cece Hooks got going early and powered them to an 11-point lead at the end of the first.
It was in the second quarter, however, that Ohio really pulled away. It dominated Mercyhurst (0-4) on both ends of the floor en route to a 24-9 quarter. Mercyhurst did not make a field goal for the first 7:46 of the quarter as Ohio’s stifling defense allowed it to more than double its first quarter lead.
The Bobcats were so dominant in the first half that Hooks and Johnson only played 14 of 20 minutes each. Seeing the two of them on the bench has been a rare sight this season, especially in the first half.
Hooks and Johnson averaged more than 71 combined minutes per game this season going into Saturday’s game, but only played 44 combined minutes against Mercyhurst. Despite the limited time on the court compared to their usual workload, the two guards were still able to make their presence felt.
They combined for 42 points and seven steals, and after a tough opening stretch of the season, it was helpful for Ohio coach Bob Boldon to get his two stars some extra rest.
“The last 10 days have been tough on them,” Boldon said. “It was good to get those kids some rest.”
Hooks and Johnson know the Bobcats rely on them to play a lot of minutes, but they were also excited to get some rest and cheer on their teammates from the bench, especially in a game where so many young players got to play big minutes.
“We play so many minutes,” Hooks said. “It’s good to give them an opportunity to go out there, it was good to watch them and cheer them on.”
While Ohio did want to get its younger players minutes in Saturday’s blowout, there were plenty of other things it wanted to work on as well.
The Bobcats’ biggest issue this season has been defense, especially in the paint. They gave up 52 points in the paint against Notre Dame in their season opener, and while the interior defense has improved, it was still something Boldon wanted the Bobcats to focus on.
“It was nice to have this opportunity to come back and continue to grow defensively,” Boldon said. “The last seven days have been very focused on the defensive end and I was really happy to see them respond.”
The Bobcats certainly responded to their recent defensive woes, as they held the Lakers to 30.6% from the field and just 27.3% from three. The Bobcats also had 16 steals and scored 31 points off turnovers.
If the Bobcats can carry what they did well on Saturday over their nine-day break in between games, they should really start to look like the team that was picked to win the MAC regular season. That team has not fully shown up yet, but when they do, it will be a sight to see.