Women’s Basketball: MAC Preview

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After a rough start to the season that included a five-game losing streak, the Ohio University Women’s Basketball team is entering MAC play on a high note, having won four of its last six games.

Freshman guard Kiyanna Black has played a huge part in the Bobcats’ recent success. Black leads the team in scoring with 11.7 points per game. She has taken big strides since the season has started and it appears that she will continue to grow as a player.

“(Black) is starting to learn how special she can be for this basketball team,” said head coach Semeka Randall after a win against Xavier in which Black scored 23 points. “The conference is going to know what you like to do and try to take it away, but she has the type of play that it is going to be hard to stop her. The only person that can stop Kiyanna is KB.”

Ohio (5-7) will need Black and others to play at a high level if they want to compete in the MAC East. Akron and Bowling Green (both 9-4) are favorites to win the MAC East because of their outstanding offensive play. Both teams are in the top four scoring offenses of the MAC, while Ohio’s offense is ranked just ninth out of 12 teams.

In the MAC West, Toledo reigns supreme. The Rockets (12-1) have the best overall record entering MAC play, and are favorites to be regular season conference champions. Toledo is first place in scoring defense and third place in scoring offense, which leads to them having the MAC’s highest scoring margin of +14.1 (Ohio is -4.8 in comparison).

Ashley Fowler is one of the players that will need to play her best in order for Ohio to compete. Fowler, who is first the MAC in steals with 32, leads Ohio’s top-five defense, which allows less than 63 points per game. For the ‘Cats to compete against high scoring teams like Akron and Bowling Green, the defensive play will have to be spectacular, as it was against Xavier in the first half where the Muskateers shot just 25 percent.

“When we couldn’t score, our defense held us in there,” said Randall. “We’ve always been a defensive team …I thought we were able to do a tremendous job of that whether we were in our man-to-man or our zone.”

Expect Ohio to finish in the middle of the pack in the MAC East. Akron, Bowling Green and Miami (8-5) currently have better records than the ‘Cats, and all three teams also have a higher ranked scoring offense, scoring defense and scoring margin thus far into the season. Veteran leaders like juniors Erin Bailes and Shavon Robinson will need to step up their scoring and the whole team will need to make more shots in order for Ohio, who has the second-worst field goal percentage in the MAC, to compete with the top teams of the conference.

If Randall’s team continues to improve like it has in the past six games, then it could be a successful season for the ‘Cats, who finished sixth overall in the MAC last year. However, if Ohio suffers from stretches of poor shooting or mental lapses, the losses could add up in a hurry.

“I think we have Akron next in the first conference game, so I think that will be good if we can carry this on and start conference (play) with a win,” said Bailes after the win against Xavier.

Ohio does indeed open conference play against Akron Thursday at home. The game is at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on WOUB-AM 1340.