Ohio is not known for its capabilities when shooting from 3-point range. It’s struggled in recent games to maintain a consistent shooting percentage from beyond the arc, and bad nights often cost Ohio a win.
But a 3-pointer saved Ohio on Monday night against Buffalo. It had recovered from its shortcomings in the first half to go tit-for-tat with Buffalo by the fourth quarter. With 6:26 left in the game, Kaylee Bambule made her eighth 3-point attempt of the night.
She sank it with ease. Bambule had given Ohio the go-ahead 3-pointer it had needed all night. Ohio never lost the lead again. It held on to defeat Buffalo 68-66 inside The Convo.
Ohio (10-5, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) is used to coming back against Buffalo. It won by three points last season after trailing by double digits. Many of the Bobcats who played Monday had been a part of that win last season. They knew what they needed to do to win, but it didn’t appear that way from the get-go.
The Bobcats didn’t communicate in the first half and looked lost on both sides of the ball. No one was hitting their spots on defense, and they allowed the Bulls (11-6, 5-2 MAC) to score easy points in the paint. Their usual long passing style didn’t work. Buffalo crawled all over Ohio to build a 10-point lead by halftime.
Ohio was frustrated and running out of ideas. Only one plan had stuck in the first half: keeping Cece Hooks on Buffalo’s Dyaisha Fair. It worked because the two have similar tendencies. Fair was always in the gaps, and so was Hooks.
“Cece did a great job of staying in her space, and her teammates did a great job of providing help,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said.
The Bobcats needed a plan if they wanted to have a chance at defeating the Bulls, so they stuck to what worked. They carried over the game plan to have Hooks guard Fair into the second half. Hooks stayed locked on Fair, and the Bobcats managed to hold the second-best scorer in the MAC to 10 points by the end of the game.
There was a newfound spunk in the Bobcats. They weren’t afraid to steal the ball and get in the Bulls’ faces. They were eager to make up for what they hadn’t done before halftime. They played meticulously, shot accurately and overtook the Bulls.
Part of Ohio’s second half surge came due to another adjustment. It started communicating again.
“Once we started communicating, things fell out in line,” Erica Johnson said. “We weren’t communicating at all, and on the other half of that, we weren’t listening to each other either. So, once we fixed that, we were good.”
The pieces fell into place. The Bobcats closed the third quarter on a 9-2 scoring run, even while the Bulls tried to shut them out. By the time Bambule sank the go-ahead 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, Ohio was playing on its own terms.
Ohio secured a comeback win over one of the top teams in the MAC, but the fact it had to claw its way from a shaky first half performance to catch up to Buffalo raises concern. It won’t fare well during the rest of its MAC schedule if it doesn’t start strong.
“We have to have better energy to start the game, but I think they know that,” Boldon said. “So, we’ll get after it.”