Ohio is getting out of its funk. Its 68-66 marquee win over Buffalo on Monday sent a call to the rest of the Mid-American Conference that, despite its early struggles, Ohio still deserves a spot among the top teams in the conference.
It wasn’t a game the Bobcats were expected to win. The Bulls may have been coming into Monday’s game dazed by their recent loss to Toledo, but they still owned the second-best record in the MAC. They also had one of the best players in the conference, Dyaisha Fair, in their lineup. Before Monday night, Fair averaged 22.9 points per game and shot 39.7% from 3-point range.
Coach Bob Boldon needed to figure out how to stop Fair if he wanted Ohio to stand a chance. He didn't have to look far to find an easy solution.
“We put Cece (Hooks) on her … good coaching,” Boldon said.
Hooks provided both a simple solution and effective results. She and the rest of the Bobcats held Fair to 10 points the entire game. Fair’s shooting took a nosedive, as she was just 4-of-17 from the field and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Bobcats shut Fair down. She didn’t even touch the ball during Buffalo’s final possession when Ohio held a slim two-point lead.
The Bobcats (10-5, 4-2 MAC) may have pulled out the win, but they started the game on a broken foot. They didn’t score for the first four minutes and trailed 15-2 midway through the first quarter. Shots didn’t connect. The Bobcats missed their first seven 3-pointers and slogged through the opening minutes.
But Ohio grit its teeth and pushed on. It rallied in the second half and overcame a double-digit deficit with lockdown defense and precise shooting from beyond the arc. It ran the the floor after halftime and made easy baskets in transition. Hooks and Erica Johnson shook off their funk from the first quarter ended the night with a combined 36 points.
Ohio saw its chance Monday night and grabbed it with both hands. It trudged through a slow start to defeat one of the best teams in the MAC.
But this was not only a statement game for the Bobcats as a whole but for Hooks in particular. Hooks is now the MAC’s all-time scoring leader and Ohio’s all-time leader in steals, and Monday’s game proved her proficiency on both ends of the floor. In addition to holding Fair to her second-lowest scoring game this season, Hooks tallied 20 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. She never left the court all game and only committed one foul.
“So, besides asking her to be the MAC’s all-time leading scorer, we also ask her to stop other people from scoring,” Boldon said.
It’s been a great few days for Hooks. She further cemented her place as one of the greatest players in MAC history and helped Ohio get back on track toward a potential deep run in the MAC Tournament.
The Bobcats reminded the MAC on Monday night that they may sit fourth in the conference standings, but they are still a team to be reckoned with. The Bobcats sent one of the top teams in the conference packing, and they might not stop there.