CLEVELAND – All season, Ohio has relied on its big three of Cece Hooks, Erica Johnson and Gabby Burris for the majority of its offense.
This trio — who have all been at Ohio for five years — combines to average 52.9 points per game, which is over 70% of Ohio’s scoring.
In Wednesday’s MAC quarterfinal loss to Toledo, however, that number was a lot higher. Hooks, Johnson and Burris combined to score 60 of Ohio’s 67 points in an 80-67 loss.
While there are certainly benefits to having three players as dynamic as Ohio’s big three, the disadvantages were apparent Wednesday as Ohio got next to nothing from the rest of its roster.
The other four players who played significant minutes – Madi Mace, Kaylee Bambule, Peyton Guice and Yaya Felder – attempted just eight shots, making three.
The only two of those four who scored were Mace and Guice, who had five points and two points respectively.
When compared to Toledo, Ohio’s lack of depth becomes painfully clear.
The Rockets had four players score in double figures, as well as two more who were very close with eight and nine points.
“I wanted to get a little bit of rest if I could for a couple of kids,“ Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said. “(The Bobcats) did go on a little bit of a run, but I do think our depth paid off."
To compound the Bobcats’ issues, Hooks, Johnson and Burris combined to shoot just 36.7%, hitting 22-60 shots.
Hooks, Johnson and Burris scored 60 points on 60 shots, but Ohio was incredibly inefficient overall, scoring 67 points on 68 shots.
Having more points than shots is never a good formula for success, but the Bobcats were able to hang around for much of the game despite not shooting the ball very well.
In the end, Ohio needed Hooks, Johnson and Burris to step up one more time, and they were unable to. After doing so much of Ohio’s scoring and playing so many minutes all season, Ohio’s big three simply ran out of gas.
Maybe the most confusing thing about Ohio’s season-ending loss, however, was the fact that this issue had been getting better over the last few games.
Guice returned to the rotation against Miami on March 2 to provide some relief, and Felder had been playing some of her best basketball recently, most notably her 20-point performance against Kent State on Saturday.
But in Ohio’s biggest game of the season, with its season on the line against the MAC’s No. 1 seed, it fell back into one of its old habits: completely relying on Hooks, Johnson and Burris.
This issue is much more important than simply this game, however. Wednesday was Hooks and Burris’ final game for the Bobcats, and it will be incredibly hard to replace that level of production.
As the careers of two of Ohio’s most decorated players come to an end, it is left with plenty of questions as to how it will move forward.
The Bobcats have relied on Hooks and Burris all season, and what it got them was a loss in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament.
Ohio will face a massive transition this offseason, and while there will be plenty of optimism despite the loss of Hooks and Burris, Wednesday’s loss showed that Ohio will face an uphill climb to make sure next season doesn’t end the way this one did.