Ohio Knocks Off Xavier in Season Opener

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It took the 2012 Ohio Bobcats 26 games to score a season-high 82 points. The 2013 Bobcats, under the direction of new head coach Bob Boldon, topped Xavier, 94-88, in their season opener.

Ohio’s new-look offense yielded smooth passing and a lot of open shots, wearing down the Musketeer defense. The Bobcats shot 30-for-63 from the field, but many of the misses were uncontested.

Leading the offensive charge was sophomore Kiyanna Black.

Black netted a career-high 35 points on 11-for-19 shooting. The sophomore’s eight 3-pointers made from beyond the arc were the second most in a single game in Ohio history. Junior Mariah Byard also caught fire from the 3-point line, knocking in 3-of-6 shots from downtown.

Black attributed her successful night to the emphasis that the coaching staff placed on launching 3-pointers often and accurately.

“I didn’t expect to make that many threes, but they kept going in, so I just kept shooting,” Black said.

While Black’s 35 points led all scorers, freshman Destini Cooper’s strong interior play and efficient free throw shooting led to a double-double in her first collegiate game. Cooper finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, including a team-high seven made free throw attempts.

The first-year player admitted that she was nervous for the first couple of minutes, but that she soon settled down.

“My dad always tells me that it’s just basketball, you’ve been playing it for years,” Cooper said,

Earlier in the week, Boldon predicted that his squad would score no more than 85 points. He was glad to be wrong, but noted that missed layups and committing 18 turnovers prevented Ohio from putting even more points on the board.

Ten of those turnovers came in the first half, but Xavier’s 10 turnovers kept affairs close in the first 20 minutes. In addition, both teams combined for 57 fouls on the evening, 28 of which came in the first stanza.

Both defenses were swarming to the ball in the first half, with Ohio running a 2-3 trap zone and Xavier playing tight man-to-man. Xavier amassed a 7-point lead in the middle of the half, but went into the locker room up, 41-38.

Xavier’s defensive puzzle was solved during the break when Ohio began the second half on a 15-2 run. In addition to the outside shooting, Black, Byard and freshman Yamonie Jenkins threw accurate passes into the post, making life difficult for Xavier interior defenders.

Ohio shot its way to a double digit lead for much of the latter portion of the second half, but the Musketeers did not go out without a fight.

Shatyra Hawkes and Jenna Crittendon scored a combined 33 points in the second half and led the Xavier comeback. The Musketeers closed the gap to 6 with 15 seconds to go, but Lexie Baldwin blocked Aliyah Zanitt’s 3-point attempt and the game was over.

Despite Ohio’s performance on the offensive end, slow rotation on defense and sloppy ball-handling in the second half allowed Xavier to stay in the game. Boldon was not pleased by letting up 88 points and stressed the importance of improving the on-the-ball and off-the-ball defense.

“That’s our number one concern, we have to get better defensively,” Boldon said.

The Bobcats will have almost a full week to work on their defense before traveling to Morehead State to rumble with the Eagles on Saturday. Tipoff is set at 7 p.m.