Updated Thu, Jan 30, 2014 2:17 pm
Sunday’s second-half debacle against Toledo proved that while Ohio (8-9, 3-4) has made great strides since last year, there is still much work to do. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Thursday marks their first of three matchups against the top teams in the Mid-American Conference.
First up is the first place Bowling Green Falcons (16-3, 6-1).
A quick glance at Bowling Green’s schedule and a few wins pop out at the average fan, including victories over Big Ten opponents Michigan and Ohio State. When the Falcons win, they win big, averaging a margin of victory of nearly 14 points and totaling 70-plus points on 9 separate occasions.
Bowling Green’s three losses came at the hands of Marist (15-5, 7-2), No. 19 Purdue (14-5, 5-3) and MAC West juggernaut Central Michigan (11-7, 7-0) 82-79 in overtime.
Through 19 games, Bowling Green’s versatility has guided them to success. 6-foot-1 bruiser Alexis Rogers has been a monster in the middle, averaging 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. When Rogers isn’t pulling down the scrappy rebounds, 6-foot-2 Jill Stein, who leads the team with 8.7 boards per game, has been dominant on both the offensive and defensive glass.
When a team manages to shut down Bowling Green’s interior game, Jillian Halfhill, Deborah Hoekstra, Miriam Justinger and Erica Donovan are all shooting at least 30 percent from beyond the arc.
If there is an Achilles’ heel to this Falcon offense, it is that they turn the ball over 15 times per contest. Mix that stat with an Ohio that jumps passes at the top of the key, and fast break opportunities could present themselves for the ‘Cats.
When the ‘Cats are forced to run half-court sets, look for off-ball movement to play a key role in determining the outcome. Destini Cooper has proven herself a viable option for drives to the hoop, but she, and the rest of the team, will have a difficult time shooting over the outstretched arms of Rogers and Stein. Ohio will need to find ways to lure the forwards away from the hoop, creating room to operate.
Above all, the 3-pointer will be vital. The ‘Cats have shown the ability to record monster numbers from beyond the arc and they will need a heroic performance from Kiyanna Black and company to stay competitive in this matchup.