Ohio’s pattern of slow starts is now too grand of an issue to ignore. Once again, it was poor in the first quarter in Wednesday’s 84-74 home loss to Ball State, and dug itself a hole from which it could not recover.
This is far from the first time the first quarter has been a thorn in Ohio’s side, and it has been a real problem since the start of the Mid-American Conference schedule.
Including Wednesday night’s game, the Bobcats have trailed at the end of the first quarter in seven of their nine conference games. They have won four of those seven, but constantly having to come from behind seems to have caught up to the Bobcats.
“It’s hard to keep trying to push through those comebacks,” senior guard Cece Hooks said. “We just have to start off strong every game and stop putting ourselves in a hole and trying to fight back toward the end because obviously that’s not working.”
It had worked for Ohio just last week, as it came from behind to beat both Buffalo and Toledo. Against Buffalo, Ohio got off to just about the worst start imaginable, trailing 15-2 halfway through the first quarter. Yet, somehow Ohio was able to pull out a victory.
The Bobcats’ luck may be running out, however, as a team with a lack of depth cannot continue to try and overcome slow starts. They have only played six players for the majority of the game for the better half of the season, and that is clearly starting to take a toll.
The problem was only exacerbated by Kaylee Bambule, who has started 15 games for Ohio this season, missing Wednesday’s game due to COVID-19 protocols.
With Bambule out, Ohio’s starting lineup of Hooks, Erica Johnson, Gabby Burris, Yaya Felder and Madi Mace played about 94% of the possible minutes in Wednesday’s game.
This is nothing new for the Bobcats, as the six players mentioned above have combined to play over 90% of the Bobcats minutes this year. In fact, freshman Ella Pope is currently seventh on the team in minutes, despite having not played since their Dec. 4th game against Richmond.
The early-season losses of Pope and Abby Garnett, who were both averaging more than 17 minutes per game have certainly caused problems for Ohio. But whatever the causes, its short rotation has quickly become one of its most significant issues
If Wednesday’s game was any indication, overcoming their slow starts will continue to be an issue for the Bobcats, and it is one that can be partly attributed to their lack of depth.
There may be some help coming, though. Kate Dennis seems to have worked her way into the rotation. She has given the Bobcats some productive minutes off the bench over the last few games, including 10 against Ball State.
Ohio coach Bob Boldon has clearly been trying to lengthen the rotation, but unless his attempts start to bear fruit soon, the amount of minutes played by Ohio’s stars will prove to be its downfall.