Ohio moved one step closer to qualifying for the Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 73-64 win over Miami on Wednesday night.
The Bobcats got off to a hot start, shooting with purpose and leading the RedHawks by as much as 13 points in the first quarter. They’ve struggled to get off the ground early throughout the season, but the Bobcats found a rhythm Wednesday. But that was just the start. The Bobcats also pieced together one of their best defensive games in weeks.
Ohio allowed just 64 points, the fewest points it held an opponent to since its win over Eastern Michigan in mid-February. Ohio locked down on Miami’s shooting ability and prevented it from answering on offense. The RedHawks shot just 38.3% from the floor and 26.3% from beyond the arc Wednesday.
Even when Ohio hit a rough patch on offense in the third quarter, its defense held firm. It held Miami to just 12 points in the third quarter, which presented Ohio with the opportunity to pull away. Defense has been one of Ohio’s most prominent issues this season, but it stepped up on the defensive end and hounded Miami all night.
An excellent night for 3-point shooting only boosted Ohio’s performance. Six different Bobcats sank 3-pointers, including Peyton Guice in her first game this season. But Ohio was led beyond the arc by Gabby Burris, who went 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Burris has been excellent from the floor as of late, and she can pull her defender away from the paint to open up space for the Bobcats.
“Most people guard her with a bigger player,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “Being able to take that player away from the rim puts a lot of pressure on teams when they know that’s where Cece (Hooks) is trying to get.”
While Burris often opens up space for Hooks, their roles were reversed Wednesday night.
Hooks got off to a great start, scoring 17 of her 23 total points in the first half. As the Miami defense collapsed to stop Hooks from scoring inside, space opened up for Burris on the perimeter. Burris knocked down four 3s in the second half alone.
Wednesday night was almost certainly the final game in The Convo for both Burris and Hooks, and there was no better way for them to close out their final game in Athens than by teaming up to throttle Miami. The two seniors combined for 38 points, 13 rebounds and five steals to help Ohio inch closer to securing a MAC Tournament berth.
But their work is far from finished.
Ohio’s spot in the postseason is far from secure. If it can come away with a victory over Kent State in its final game of the regular season, Ohio will have secured a spot in the MAC Tournament. If it loses, then a season in which it was picked to win the regular season title will come to a crushing end.
For most teams in the MAC, the path to a potential conference championship begins next Wednesday. But for Ohio, it starts now.