Women’s basketball: Fowler steps back into familiar role after Yelle’s injury

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“We’re all on the same team working for the same goal,” junior point guard Ashley Fowler said, when she was asked about her changing roles this season.

In the fall, Fowler was looking forward to starting at point guard for the Ohio women’s basketball team for the third consecutive year; Fowler led the team in minutes last year and started every game for the Bobcats. However, when freshman Kat Yelle stepped on campus and immediately impressed, Fowler had to adjust to a new role: second unit point guard and mentor to the first year player.

Head coach Semeka Randall said it was difficult to reduce her incumbent floor general’s minutes.

“Being a former player, I know at times it’s very challenging for those things to happen," Randall said. "But for the most part, I thought overall she handled it very well.” Randall added that the unit with Yelle flowed particularly well, and the level of play that Yelle immediately showed surprised her.

Fowler was also surprised by the freshman’s immediate impact, stating that adjusting to her new role after starting for two years was “a tough pill to swallow.”

But Fowler would find herself back in her familiar role – as the starting point guard – after Yelle injured her right knee during the team’s recent trip to Las Vegas. In Yelle's absence, Fowler has been playing some of her best basketball since, leading the team to a 3-1 record in four starts while averaging more points and assists per game than Yelle did in her 11 starts.

Kat Yelle had surgery to repair her ACL on Wednesday and is out for the year, according to Randall.

“I still have the same role, but I’m just [relied on] more,” Fowler said. “I have to play a lot more minutes, and be smart, and make good decisions for the team.”

Fowler may not believe her role has drastically changed since the tournament in Sin City, but her teammates are definitely seeing a different Ashley than in previous years.

“She’s always been a confident player, but I see a lot more confidence in her now,” sophomore guard Shavon Robinson said. “She was the person who said, ‘Yeah we lost our point guard now, but we still have games to play,’ and on the court she’s just that leader for us.”

Junior forward Tina Fisher added that Fowler adds a lot on the court as far as X’s and O’s, stating that “[Ashley] does a really good job of pushing the ball,” which plays well into Ohio’s style.

Ohio hopes to continue playing at a high level as it begins the second half of its season. After a win against Buffalo Wednesday, the ‘Cats (8-7, 1-0 MAC) are off to one of their best starts in recent memory. A 2-0 conference start would be the team's first since the 2001-02 season.

“Going into the MAC, we’re very ready,” Fowler said of her team. “We feel that we’ve stepped up our competitiveness, and we’re ready to compete.”

Randall believes her team will continue to compete in conference play the same way it always has.

“We were competitive despite what the record was a year ago with Ashley at the point…so I expect the same now.”

But there is undeniably a new energy surrounding this year’s team, and Fowler has brought something special in the last four games that could make Ohio a dark horse contender down the stretch.

“Ashley’s Ashley,” Randall said in regard to her point guard. “We need her poise, and we need her to go out there and lead our basketball team. And she’s very capable of doing that.”