Updated Sun, Mar 4, 2012 7:26 pm
Using the same stingy defense that has helped them win all season, the Ohio Bobcats (14-17) ousted Kent State (6-21) in the first round of the MAC Tournament 58-40. They closed out the conference season strong with four straight wins in a row at home.
“They really gutted it out. They did not want to be denied in terms of getting to Cleveland this afternoon. So, really proud of our team, this was a collective team effort,” Ohio head coach Semeka Randall said.
When the ‘Cats last battled the Golden Flashes, they forced 32 turnovers. Kent State struggled to maintain control in this contest with 23 turnovers, leading to 20 points for the Bobcats. Ohio also held Kent State to eight points in the first half.
“Our defense was where it needed to be today. Outstanding pressure from start to finish in terms of whether we were in halfcourt or whether we were in full court picking them up,” Randall said.
“I think we just made them play super fast we could tell they were speeding up and rushing their shots and that’s why they didn’t fall,” Ohio guard Ashley Fowler said.
The last time senior guard Tenishia Benson was on a team that held its opponent to eight points in a half?
Kent State denied Ohio’s inside game for the most part, allowing 14 points in the paint, but the Cats maintained a lead of over 20 points the majority of the game because of the Golden Flashes’ inability to score. They made just 13 field goals in the game, three in the first frame. Ohio had a high number of points from behind the arc with 11 treys; the most the team has made this season.
After the Flashes lead 3-0 in the opening moments, Ohio dominated the rest of the first half and went into the locker room up 34-8. Kent State committed twice as many turnovers (16) as they had points. The Bobcats bounced back from shooting 1 for 10 in the opening minutes to close out the half making 13 of their 25 field goal attempts.
Senior Tenishia Benson had a memorable final outing at the Convocation Center, notching a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Ashley Fowler added 11 points and passed 500 career points during the game and Mariah Byard scored 12, all from threes.
Ohio plays (5) Central Michigan (17-14) on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland at noon. Coach Randall and her players understand it’s a brand new season when tournament time arrives.
“We all understand the importance of what March Madness is all about, it’s about surviving and advancing,” Randall said.
“The scouting report, you may know front and back, it’s totally different. Teams will change things up, they’ll play a different way because this is the die-hard time, this is it,” Benson said.
In the next round the Bobcats don’t have the benefit of playing at home. They will be playing at a neutral site.
“I’m hoping that if we think back to when we went on neutral floor, I thought we had great energy and effort out in Vegas…(I’m) not going to really think about it being a road trip other than the fact that we’re on a neutral court and no one has the advantage, we’re all getting the first time at those rims and that court,” Randall said.
Benson thinks the ‘Cats can make the Q feel more like the Convo by playing as long as possible.
“We gotta make it comfortable because it is a foreign place for this program, let’s just be honest. We have to make it home and in order to make something official, you have to be there longer than one day.”