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Ohio Freshman, Monica Williams (13), heads towards the basket during the first half of their home matchup against Western Michigan University, Feb 28, 2023, at The Convo in Athens.

Women’s Basketball: Monica Williams and Ohio shine on defense in tone-setting win

Throughout the highs and lows of Ohio’s (10-17, 7-9 Mid-American Conference) 2023-24 season, one continuous bright spot has been first-year guard Monica Williams’ consistent improvement and impact.

Williams has started every game for the Bobcats this season, making her just one of two players on the roster to do so. Kate Dennis, who celebrated senior night at The Convo against Central Michigan, is the other.

Williams made history in the Bobcats’ last home game of the season against the Chippewas, recording seven steals, the third-highest single-game total in the team’s history. This effort helped push Ohio to a crucial win: the team forced 29 turnovers, 21 of which came off steals – tied for the fourth-highest single-game mark in team history. 

All season long, and especially throughout MAC play, the Bobcats hung onto their hat on their post defense, denying entry passes and keeping teams from taking advantage of their general lack of size. Against the Chippewas, who feature six foot, five inch Rochelle Norris, this was no different.

“I think the players did a really good job preparing,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “They were really locked in on understanding philosophy and what they were trying to do.”

Williams was no exception in terms of execution. She was wreaking havoc all game on the opposing baseline, taking away post-up attempts at the point of catch and getting her hands in the way of mismatch opportunities.

Even more fascinating than Williams’ steal total itself is the fact that all seven came in the first half, allowing Ohio to get out to an impressive lead early and maintain it, even through a lackluster third quarter.

Ohio University Fr. Laylay Fantroy (2) celebrates against Central Michigan, March 2, 2024.

On the back of the turnovers they were able to force, the Bobcats scored 34 points off turnovers, many of which came in two-on-one fastbreaks. The inherent strength of a young team like this is the ability to get out and run fast often, and the Bobcats are no exception.

“If we’ve got the advantage, of course, we want to take it,” Williams said. “All of us can beat people off the dribble, and we’re faster.”

On top of Williams’ career night, Ohio saw huge contributions in the steals category from Laylay Fantroy, Jaya McClure and Bailey Tabeling, who combined for 12 steals. The activity from start to finish is what won the Bobcats the game, and the quickness of their guards against the Chippewas’ slower-footed bigs is no small part of keeping that advantage.

Of course, the focus of the night is not just Williams’ defensive performance but the team’s third consecutive victory, one that pushed Ohio to seventh in the MAC, tying the team with sixth-ranked Western Michigan.

The greater focus, though, lies on who sits below the Bobcats. The win gave the team a half-game cushion over Northern Illinois for the final spot, as well as a two-game lead over Miami, meaning that the only way in which Ohio misses the MAC tournament is if the team loses its last two games, while Miami wins its last two and have the edge in several statistic-based tie-breakers.

Regardless of post-season aspirations and potential, Williams’ feat on the defensive end stands as the story of a game that changed Ohio’s season, only becoming more impressive with the added fact that Williams is still a freshman.

“She (Williams) always picked up things very quickly,” Boldon said. “It’s nice to see her translate that into a memorable performance; she was terrific tonight.”


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