Published Fri, Feb 10, 2012 2:24 pm Dateline
Offensive inconsistency has plagued the Bobcats at times this season
The Ohio Bobcats are 10-14 this season. Despite battling injuries, combating youth and inexperience, and playing MAC teams with more continuity in their rotations on a nightly basis, Ohio is one win away from its first 11 win season since 2008-09 and four wins from its best season in head coach Semeka Randall’s tenure.
10-14 with six games remaining can hardly be considered a disappointment. But what if I told you Ohio is 9-3 when scoring 60 points?
Correct…9-3. Only 60 points…
“We need to score 60 points,” Randall said with a smile after hearing of her team’s impressive record when it drops 60.
While Randall’s response was rather blunt, Ohio has had trouble on the offensive end this season, especially in conference play. The Bobcats are averaging only 59.5 points per game this season, ranking ninth in the Mid American Conference. In 10 conference games, that number dips to 55 points per game. Ohio does have the fifth best scoring defense in the MAC, allowing 61.9 points per game to its opponents, but the offensive struggles have prevented the ‘Cats from winning a number of tight games.
“I would think about areas in which we have to step up to get those 60 points,” senior Tenishia Benson said.
Benson has been Ohio’s leading scorer and most consistent offensive weapon this season. She is fifth in the MAC in scoring, averaging 14.3 points per contest. Shavon Robinson is Ohio’s only other player in the top 30.
“If I would be confident in my shot, then I’m confident that I can make it,” said Benson. “Sometimes with young people, it might be an external issue of ‘My knee is hurting,’ ‘I missed this last shot,’ ‘The girl just scored on me,’ and obviously they have all those thoughts, and they’re not able to filter it quickly.”
Ohio has an interesting mix of young talent and experienced role players. Robinson, a sophomore, is creative with getting scoring opportunities, and freshman Mariah Byard is a deep threat that can get hot in an instant. Juniors Porsha Harris, Alesia Howard and Ashley Fowler add experience in the starting lineup, but all three have missed at least one game with injury since the turn of the New Year.
“We’re just trying to find a creative way to be able to magnify some wins and get that scoring and be able to play defense too, slowing people down,” Randall said.
At times this season, Ohio has seemingly been fighting multiple battles over the course of the game. Injuries have undeniably been a factor in the Bobcats’ struggles, and their ability to hit shots has been woefully inconsistent. The ‘Cats have been susceptible to giving up scoring runs at key moments in games.
“We’re fighting a number of battles with just trying to find consistency amongst out team with lineups and players that play well, and that’s been just kind of tricky throughout the course of our season here,” Randall said.
“That’s every single game,” Benson said. “(Offensively) you just have to be mentally tough before the game to know that when your shot’s not falling, you have to speak to yourself…have that internal confidence.”
When the Bobcats have had that confidence, they have been good. Ohio showed incredible resolve in an overtime win against Akron this season and handled Buffalo and Western Michigan with relative ease. Furthermore, several players on Ohio’s team can come up with a big performance at any moment. Six different players have led Ohio in scoring at least one game this season, and five of those players have done it more than once.
“That’s been the biggest thing, the battle we had a year ago, just not having enough offensive threats out on the floor,” Randall said. "It’s good that we do have those offensive threats now. The next phase of this whole process would be trying to find some consistency with those players coming up on significant nights and being able to provide a punch.”
Randall and Benson both see an opportunity to make that happen this season. Four of Ohio’s six remaining games are very winnable, and games against Miami and Bowling Green are not far out of the Bobcats’ reach if it plays its best basketball.
“This team and this program will eventually take off to where it needs to be,” Randall said. “And it’s not too late now, things could change here late if you get feeling good about yourself and have a little bit of confidence.”
“When it gets to your senior year, you’ve been playing since you were five years old, and you can literally count how many games you have left on one hand, it’s a scary thing,” Benson said. “It’s just that last minute, that last second type of effort, and just heart…just put it all out there.”
Ohio squares off with Ball State (8-15, 3-7 MAC) at home Saturday.