SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Purcell Pavilion was decked out in green for the start of basketball season Tuesday, but only a small portion of it was in support of Ohio. This environment did Ohio no favors, as it was overwhelmed in a 105-69 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame.
Ohio (0-1) appeared eager in the first seconds of the game. Gabby Burris stole the ball from Notre Dame (1-0) to open the door for a three-point jumper by Kaylee Bambule. However, Notre Dame was just as quick to take the ball away. It completed 19 turnovers Tuesday by applying pressure to Ohio’s weak points.
The biggest weak point for Ohio was its defense. It struggled to rebound and hardly blocked. The only Ohio athlete to consistently rebound was Abby Garnett, who had eight. On the other side, Ohio ended the night with two blocks compared to Notre Dame’s 10.
There was a slight hope for the Bobcats going into the second half down just 47-42, but the Fighting Irish had other plans. The Fighting Irish struck gold and climbed to a substantial 81-55 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Bobcats never recovered from the deficit due to their frozen offensive production as the Fighting Irish continued to heat up.
The Fighting Irish duo of Sam Brunelle and Maya Dodson combined for 29 points in the second half, which is more than the 27 points the Bobcats scored in that same time period. The Fighting Irish were able to find the basket, but the Bobcats could not.
“The third quarter, we did a pretty poor job on offense,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said.
Ohio mercifully accepted defeat in the fourth quarter. By the time there was around eight minutes remaining, Boldon had pulled both leading scorers Cece Hooks and Erica Johnson. Hooks ended the night with 21 points, and Johnson had 14. Rather than exhaust his starters, Boldon decided to give the bench time on the court.
The Fighting Irish challenged the Bobcats in all aspects: size, shooting and defense. Their natural ability was something the Bobcats were not prepared for and could not control, and it made a difference in the paint.
“Would-be baskets were erased by their athleticism, and we kind of get that when you play these sorts of teams,” Boldon said.
Size played into the Bobcats’ total fouls. The last time these teams faced each other, Ohio won a close upset, but the only thing close tonight was the Bobcats’ chances at fouling out. Due to their size, the Fighting Irish were able to draw fouls from the smaller Bobcats. Ohio’s attempts to steal the ball with tough play ended it with 21 personal fouls.
It was not the way Ohio wanted to start its season, but the 36-point defeat will create a springboard for the remainder. The Mid-American Conference is a different landscape than nonconference play, and Ohio has room to improve before conference play begins.