Updated Fri, Dec 9, 2011 4:36 pm
Tenishia Benson knows how important Friday's game against Youngstown State is for Ohio women's basketball, but not because the Penguins are in town.
Friday night's game is the 1,000th game in program history.
"I just think when a program has an opportunity to play that long and you're a part of that, it's a great honor," Benson said. "It's just a historical thing. You can go back and say, 'I played in the 1,000th game in the history of Ohio women's basketball program.' It'll be fun."
The program is 448-551 in 38-plus years of basketball. The program's only MAC Championship came in the 1985-86 season, when head coach Amy Pritchard led the Bobcats to a 26-3 record and a one-point loss to Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. The program has just six winning seasons since then.
On Monday, Benson (undisclosed injury) was back in the Bobcat lineup for the first time since Nov. 19 against Marshall, and played 19 minutes (four points) in a 10-point loss to Cleveland State.
Ohio (3-4) has lost three straight games after winning three in a row, but plays a trifecta of consecutive home games, starting with Friday's benchmark contest.
"There's no place like home...I think Dorothy said that," Benson added. "We have to win. We want to stop that streak now. I think it'd be good to get a win here at home, especially in that 1,000th game."
"I think it's pretty cool," freshman point guard Kat Yelle said of the millenia mark. "I'm really excited about it. Hopefully we can win it. It'd be sweet to win at home."
Yelle, from Geneva, Ill., has started in all seven games Ohio has played, and is averaging 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Head coach Semeka Randall (33-66 in three-plus years as coach) has infused an incredibly up-tempo offensive style into her 2011-12 team, but the pace has predictably come with added consequence in the young season. Ohio is averaging over 20 turnovers per game.
"We're gradually getting better and better," Yelle added. "We just can't take breaks. Whenever we get up we have to keep pushing it and scoring and we can't be trading baskets back-and-forth."
The Bobcats led by eight points at Cleveland State and by 10 at home over UNC-Wilmington before losing both games. Ohio has held a second-half lead in two of its four losses - on the road at Morehead State and at Cleveland State.
"We have to put first half with second half," Benson said. "That's how you win away from home.
But this team is perhaps more talented than any Randall has had in her four years as Ohio's head coach, but it is very young. The players are still getting used to each other.
"On offense, we're reading each other better," Symone Lyles said. "We know better what our teammates like to do."
"We're seeing good things and things that are not so good," "And that gives us time to fix them before we get into the MAC season. That's really when things start counting. Things count now, but when you get into the MAC Tournament...that's really when the stuff takes place."
The three-game non-conference homestand, starting with the 1,000th game on Friday, happens in a five-day span, which is preparation for Ohio's Dec. 18-20 trip to Las Vegas, when Ohio will play three games in three days.
San Francisco (Sunday) and Niagara (Tuesday) come to Athens for the rest of the three-game stretch at the Convocation Center.
"I'm hoping we can get these three wins for us before Las Vegas," Yelle said. "That'll be tough competition and we'll need the confidence for that."