Ohio, Toledo Meet Again In MAC Round 1

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The first 17 games of Ohio’s season brought confidence and excitement to Ohio women’s basketball. The ‘Cats had accumulated an 8-9 record, surpassing last season’s win total of six, and they had improved in several statistical categories.

23 minutes into a Jan. 26 matchup against Toledo, returning to a .500 clip seemed inevitable with Ohio leading by 21 points. What followed was a 21-4 Toledo run and eventually a win for the visiting Rockets. The loss marked the third consecutive defeat of what would turn out to be a 10-game losing streak for head coach Bob Boldon’s young squad.

The loss is not the sole cause for Ohio’s struggles, but it was certainly a tough lesson for a youthful team to learn.

After wrapping up the regular season in a 68-63 loss to rival Miami (9-20, 4-14 Mid-American Conference), Ohio earned the No. 11 seed in the 2014 MAC Tournament. Awaiting them are those same Toledo Rockets (14-15, 9-9), who earned the No. 6 seed.

Ohio will be seeking revenge not only for January’s second-half collapse, but also for a Feb. 15 nail-biter in Savage Arena. In her first full game back from a left forearm injury, guard Mariah Byard sank five treys, but good free-throw shooting down the stretch allowed the Rockets to sneak away with the 62-58 victory.

Since the February thriller, both teams have struggled down the stretch, accumulating a combined 4-9 record. The Rockets have allowed no fewer than 60 points in seven contests while the ‘Cats’ only victory came against Buffalo.

Despite their recent struggles, Monday’s matchup is set to be another barn-burner if the first two matchups are indicators. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Ohio advances with…

Quality shot selection. Ohio’s offense has struggled against zone defenses this season, including Toledo’s scheme. In their last matchup, unsuccessful baseline drives burned shot clock time, forcing poor shots from the outside and double-teamed attempts down low. Byard, Kiyanna Black and company have displayed the ability to knock down open shots, but those open looks won’t become available if the ‘Cats don’t move. A lack of movement has led to offensive struggles for Ohio.

Toledo advances with…

A dominant performance from Brianna Jones. The 6-foot-2 center only sank one field goal during February’s matchup, but she did go 6 of 6 from the charity stripe with six rebounds. Her big body can wreak havoc in the paint and with an undersized Ohio team coming to town, a stronger showing from the field could launch the Rockets into the second round.

The winner of Monday’s matchup will head to Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday to face the winner of the Miami-Western Michigan matchup.