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Ohio guard Madi Mace (3) looks to get around Akron foward Lonasia Brewer (13) druing the Bobcats' game on Feb. 26, 2022, in The Convo. The Bobcats lost 77-88.

Women's Basketball: Ohio struggles to defend the paint in loss to Akron

Interior defense has been an issue for Ohio all season, and it came back to bite them once again in Saturday’s 88-77 loss to Akron.

It was evident from Ohio’s first game of the season, a catastrophic loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 9, 2021, that it was going to struggle to defend the paint. In that game, Maya Dodson dominated for Notre Dame with 25 points and shot 68.8% from the floor, and Ohio had no way to counteract her.

The Bobcats had a similar issue with Akron forwards Lonasia Brewer and Jordyn Dawson on Saturday. The duo were able to get anything they wanted on offense. Brewer and Dawson combined for 46 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists, and they were a combined 16-of-31 from the field and 13-of-16 from the free throw line. 21 of those 46 points came in the fourth quarter as the two combined to close Ohio out.

“I don’t know that we did anything to stop her (Dawson),” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “She pretty much did what she wanted to do. We didn’t really have an answer for her.”

From the first game of their season up until Saturday, a glaring hole in the Bobcats’ game has been their inability to defend the paint. And now, it may cost them a trip to the Mid-American Conference Tournament. For most of the year, Ohio’s main issues defending the paint came because one opposing player dominated the game single-handedly.

Saturday’s loss presented a different problem, however. Brewer and Dawson worked together to form a lethal combination that gave Ohio fits. Ohio typically only plays with one big, Gabby Burris, on the floor at a time, and when faced with two skilled forwards, that wasn't enough.

Either Brewer or Dawson would move to the high post, which drew Burris out of the paint. Ohio’s rotations, as has often been the case this season, were not quick enough behind Burris. The other Bobcats got to the basket late, leading to plenty of fouls and easy buckets for Akron.

Another problem with the Bobcats’ inability to defend the interior is that it leads to better looks from beyond the arc for their opponents. As the defense scrambles to avoid giving up layups, shooters relocate, leading to open 3s. Akron was effective in this department, especially early in the game, knocking down four 3s in the first quarter.

The Bobcats have had plenty of trouble on defense this season, both inside and out, but their problems all stretch back to their inability to defend the paint. That shortcoming throws off their entire defensive strategy, which has cost the Bobcats wins and could ultimately cost them their season.

Ohio has two more games to ensure that it qualifies for the MAC Tournament. While it may be too late to fix its defensive issues, it will have to hope something changes in the final week of the regular season.

@willocunningham

wc425318@ohio.edu

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