Ohio has routinely found itself playing catch-up against Mid-American Conference opponents this season. Time and time again, it lags in the first half and falls behind early. Ohio repeated this trend Wednesday after falling to Ball State 84-74.
The Bobcats had their worst night from beyond the arc since its loss to Miami two weeks ago. They didn't make a 3-pointer until Madi Mace knocked down back-to-back shots midway through the second quarter. Mace’s pair of 3-pointers were the only two the Bobcats made in the entire first half.
Ohio didn’t fare any better in the second half. It ended the night 4-for-23 from beyond the arc, and three of those baskets were made by Mace.
Ball State had no problem sinking 3-pointers, though. Ally Becki went 7-for-13 beyond the arc, and she sank six in the first half alone. Ohio’s already lackluster defense was unable to guard Becki, and she made Ohio regret that.
“Knowing that (Becki) is capable of hitting all those 3s, we had to focus on her, finding her on the floor,” Cece Hooks said. “We couldn’t leave her open.”
The Bobcats attempted to play damage control after halftime, but their efforts were too little, too late. They managed to hold Becki to a single 3-pointer, but the rest of the Cardinals picked up the slack and shot 50% from beyond the arc in the second half. The Bobcats had modified their defense to try and adjust, but they couldn’t keep their heads above water.
Ohio spent over 38 minutes trailing Ball State and never once took the lead. Wednesday was the first time this season it has never held the lead. Even when Ohio was blown out of the water by Notre Dame in its season opener, it held the lead multiple times.
A lack of shooting range hurt the Bobcats, and it didn’t help that one of its most consistent long-range shooters was absent from the game. Kaylee Bambule was not in the lineup due to COVID-19 protocols. Instead, Yaya Felder got her fourth career start against the Cardinals in Bambule’s stead. Felder played a career-high 34 minutes and was 2-for-5 from the floor.
“I wanted to play (Yaya) about 35 minutes,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “Yaya’s a young kid trying to figure it out, and I though she did a great job figuring it out.”
Felder was not the only young Ohio player to see substantial time against the Cardinals. Kate Dennis played 10 minutes off the bench to help rest Felder and Mace. Dennis, who has been instrumental for Ohio as of late, was brought in early in the first quarter. After Ohio fell behind 15-6 in the first quarter, Boldon brought out Dennis in hopes of her knocking down a clutch shot.
None of the Bobcats did their best tonight. The constant uphill battle wore heavy on the defense and exhausted them when it came time to shoot the ball. The Bobcats simply weren’t equipped to handle the Cardinals.
Ohio now sits in the middle of the MAC standings with just over a month before the MAC Tournament. If Ohio wants a chance at making a run in the tournament, it needs to find depth, both off the bench and when shooting.