Published Wed, Jan 4, 2012 11:15 pm Dateline
Updated Thu, Jan 5, 2012 4:05 pm
The Ohio women’s basketball team wanted to ring in the New Year and the start of MAC play on the right note. The Bobcats did so with a 73-64 win over Buffalo.
“Just overall, [I’m] proud of team and its total effort,” head coach Semeka Randall said. “This is a good win to start MAC play.”
Buffalo started the game off strong, and stole the first seven points of the first half. Yet, being down early isn’t much of a roadblock for the Bobcats. After back-to-back three pointers by Tenishia Benson and Ashley Fowler, Ohio sat only two points down, 10-8, with just under 16 minutes left in the first half. Around the 14 minute mark, Alesia Howard made a basket to put the ‘Cats up 12-10. The Bulls went on a 10-3 run to put them up 22-15, but Ohio clawed back within one, 22-21 with about eight minutes left in the first half. But it would be another 4:40 until another point was scored in the Convo. Freshman Mariah Byard subbed in at the 3:45 mark and ended the offensive drought by both teams with a lay-up.
“She did bail us out,” Benson said of her teammate. “She did stuff that we expect her to do, but she did it with class. Not as a freshman, but as a player who wanted to win the game.”
Byard scored eight points in about the last three minutes of the first half, giving her 11 for the first 20 minutes.
“One word about Mariah, she’s a competitor,” Randall said. “I mean this girl just absolutely competes and works her butt off.”
She finished the game with a career-high 21 points. With Byard’s help, Ohio led 31-26 after the first half.
“She don’t play like a freshman,” Benson said. “And she doesn’t shoot like a freshman."
In the second half, it was Ohio to start out strong. After a lay-up by Shavon Robinson, the Bobcats led by 12, 53-41, with just under 13 minutes left to play. Yet, the Bulls were not ready to throw the towel in. Buffalo regained the lead with a little over seven minutes to play and continued its 17-3 run to lead 58-56 about a minute later. Brittney Hedderson, who is number two in the MAC in scoring, was key for the Bulls down the stretch and finished with 25 points and five rebounds for the game. Nytor Longar and Margeux Gupilan had 11 and 10 points for Buffalo, respectively.
The ‘Cats had their back up against the wall, a feeling they are not a stranger to.
“Its not the first time we have been in that situation,” Byard said. “We have been down even, we’ve been tied, we’ve let teams come back, but we handled ourselves today.“
Ohio’s ability to overcome the late deficit was fueled by the effort on the defensive end of the floor.
“Changing our defense really shook Buffalo up a little bit and we were able to get some keep turnovers there,” Randall said.
Ohio had 11 steals for the game and forced 20 Buffalo turnovers. Key makes from the free throw line also helped to push the ‘Cats forward. Ohio struggled from the strike in the first half, shooting only 28.6 percent, but bounced back in the second and was 9-10 for the line as a team. Benson earned key points from the charity line and was 10-10 from the game, to go along with her 19 points. In fact, Benson has made 29 free throws in a row, a streak that she doesn’t plan on ending.
“Did I?” Benson said, unaware of the streak. “I didn’t know that. I have to make 30, don’t I?”
The Bobcats have now scored 70 or more points in four straight games, a feat accomplished through a whole team effort. Along with the strong performances from Benson and Byard, Robinson and Howard had 12 and 10 points respectively, and six boards a piece. Fowler finished the game with six points.
“We had troubles with that in past years because we only had one piece,” Randall said. “Now we have a ton of pieces and it’s a lot easier because we aren’t solely relying on one person to step up and deliver for us.”
Porsha Harris played just two minutes for Ohio and left the game with what appeared to be a left knee injury. Harris didn't score and sat out the rest of the game with ice on that left knee. Her official timetable is undetermined.
Ohio improves to 8-7 and 1-0 in the MAC with a trip to Kent State on Saturday and one to Bowling Green on January 12.
“This is just the beginning,” Benson said. “That’s why I’m so excited because this is just the beginning.”