(Margo Sabec/WOUB)

Ohio Women’s Basketball Steals NIU’s Late Surge To Win

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ATHENS, OH – The Ohio Women’s basketball team blew a 22-point lead and lost 72-71 in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament back in last March to the Northern Illinois Huskies.

Wednesday night, déjà vu from Cleveland almost happened again in Athens.


The Bobcats led by seven points with 35.6 seconds to go and the Huskies wouldn’t go away.

A three, two missed free throws, a layup, two more missed free throws and another layup and in a span of 22 seconds, the Huskies erased a seven-point deficit.

13 seconds to go and the Huskies had the ball.

But they didn’t take the lead.

Heck, they didn’t even get a shot off.

That’s because things were different this time.

Cierra Hooks wasn’t on the Bobcats last March, but she was Wednesday night.

She stole the ball and hit the game-winning shot with two seconds left to help the Bobcats (11-8, 5-3 MAC) escape with a 77-75 win over the Huskies (10-9, 2-6 MAC).

“It was awesome,” Bobcats head coach Bob Boldon said on the final play of the game. “From our perspective, just about everything that could’ve went wrong in the last 30 seconds did and in [NIU’s] perspective, everything that could’ve went right did, including the turnover that gave them their final possession.”

Everything went extremely south for the Bobcats. They missed five free throws – one by Hooks and two each by Taylor Agler and Katie Barker to go along with an Amani Burke bad pass.

But Boldon had nothing but praise for his star freshman who put her miscues behind to her to make the biggest play of the game.

“To be able to step up and make a play after missing a couple of free throws and have the mental strength to put those plays behind you and make the next play is just an incredibly valuable and mature way of doing work,” Boldon said of Hooks.

The most amazing thing was that Hooks was playing with the use of only her right eye.

“CiCi can’t really see out of her left eye,” Boldon chuckled sarcastically. “So, we’re trying to work through that at the moment and I wasn’t even sure that that she was going to be able to play tonight.”

Thankfully she did and Boldon said he doesn’t expect the issue to be long-term.

Outside of the chaotic final 30 seconds of the game, Boldon was pleased how his team played. They finally had the offensive showing that he’s been waiting for all season.

“I’ve had a feeling a hot night was coming in the past six weeks and it never came, so I don’t think my feelings were accurate, but I’m glad it came,” Boldon said. “Katie [Barker] and Dom [Doseck] are as frustrated as anyone with their shooting percentage, but to their credit they keep working.”

Coming into the contest, OHIO was shooting just 26 percent from three. Wednesday night they shot 43 percent (15-of-35).

For a team that depends so much on the three, that number had to rise and Barker (8-of-13) from three – had a night to remember.

Her 24 points were a career-high and her eight three-pointers were the second best in her time in green and white. She said that her changed approach has allowed her to be confident when stepping into shots.

“It felt good to hit my first three shots,” Barker said. “For a shooter, when you make your first three shots or even your first shot, it gets you in a good mindset. Right away I felt good. I wasn’t thinking while I was shooting for the first time all season so it was nice to fell free.”

What felt even better for Barker was that for the first time in a month, the Bobcats won consecutive games.

“I think the biggest thing about this game was winning two games in a row,” Barker said. “We’ve struggled with that all season and to be able to put two in a row together is a really big turning point for this team.”

Hopefully Barker and the rest of the Bobcats will continue to feel free shooting from distance and try to extend their winning streak to three when the travel to Oxford on Saturday to take on the Miami RedHawks with tip-off set for 1 p.m. on ESPN3.