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Ohio guard CeCe Hooks shoots during the second quarter of the game against Miami at The Convo on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

Women's Basketball: Ohio qualifies for Mid-American Conference Tournament despite 59-50 loss to Kent State

Ohio ended its regular season with a whimper in its 59-50 loss to Kent State on Saturday, but it still has another chance to flourish before the season ends. The Bobcats snuck into the Mid-American Conference Tournament as the No. 8 seed, despite finishing 9-10 in conference play. Although Kent State finished conference play with a better record, Ohio managed to slip by and swipe the final spot in the postseason.

By all accounts, Ohio was outplayed by Kent State in one of its weakest games of the season. Ohio shot 26.9% from the floor, 22.6% beyond the arc and 38.9% from the free throw line in what was an atrocious offensive performance.

If not for Yaya Felder, however, those numbers would have been even worse. Felder matched her career high of 20 points and was 6-of-12 from the field, 4-of-4 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. She single-handedly kept Ohio in contention for much of the game, and her performance should be reason for optimism ahead in the MAC Tournament.

Cece Hooks, on the flip side, gets a chance at redemption following her performance Saturday. Hooks scored just eight points, her lowest in a game since Jan. 4, 2020. She had a dismal shooting day, making just 4-of-21 shots from the field and blanking on all six of her 3-point attempts. To make matters worse, Hooks missed all 11 of her free throw attempts. Hooks has struggled from the line, both this season and in her career, but Saturday’s issues were on a different level.

Hooks received no help from fellow starters Erica Johnson or Gabby Burris, either. Johnson scored just 12 points and shot 23.8% from the floor, while Burris had just five points and shot 22.2% from the floor.

Saturday’s game was an amalgamation of everything that Ohio has had issues with all season. Problems ranging from poor defense to empty possessions were all present while Ohio was on the court. Anything and everything that Ohio struggled with over the course of this difficult season was present Saturday, and to a more significant degree than before.

But in spite of these issues hounding them all game, the Bobcats still put up a fight. They fought until the bitter end and even cut the Golden Flashes' lead to one midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bobcats may have lost, but they are still headed to the MAC Tournament. In that light, there are certainly positives to take from Saturday’s game. Felder was the obvious star of the game, but she wasn’t the only positive the Bobcats can look toward. Despite almost everything going south on Saturday, the Bobcats never trailed by more than nine points and only trailed by one point with under five minutes to go.

Ohio will enter the MAC Tournament as an improbable underdog facing the conference’s top-ranked team, Toledo. Given how well they have fared in their two games against the Rockets this season — a win in late January and a one-possession loss in mid-February — the Bobcats aren’t in the worst spot.

Ohio has been given another breath in a season it believed to be dead, and now it has a chance to turn that breath into a triumphant shout when it travels to Cleveland in just a few short days.

@willocunningham

wc425318@ohio.edu

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