Amani Burke plays defense against Miami’s Lauren Dickerson in the second half of the Bobcats’ 74-48 win over the RedHawks in the Semifinals of the MAC Tournament on March 15, 2019. PHOTO: Michael Roth/WOUB

Ohio Women’s Basketball: ‘Cats Blowout Miami to Advance to MAC Championship

Posted on:

< < Back to

CLEVELAND, OH — In their previous two meetings in the regular season, Miami had erased sizable Ohio leads.

Back in late-January, the RedHawks came back from down as much as eight in the second half to beat the Bobcats in the Convo and Miami erased a 25-point deficit to draw even with Ohio in the fourth quarter of their game in Oxford on March 6 before eventually losing to the ‘Cats.

The Bobcats were not about to let that happen again.

After heading into the half up 36-23, Ohio came out of the locker room and stepped on Miami’s throat in the third quarter on the way to a 74-48 blowout win over the arch-rival RedHawks to advance to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship Game for the first time since 2015.

“It just felt great. I mean, teams always come back on us. We always get comfortable and we always relax and teams come back,” Ohio freshman guard Erica Johnson said. “So to finally put it all together and do what we know we’re capable of doing, it just feels good.”

There were many games, outside of the ones against Miami, in the regular season that ended closer than they needed to for the Bobcats.

“A lot of things you have to experience. I think some of the experiences we had leading up to here and some of them came with heartbreak. We had leads that teams have come back and nearly beat us and we’ve had teams come back and beat us,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said. “I think dealing with that and knowing that that’s a reality helps.”

Ohio outscored Miami 23-9 in the third quarter, extending their lead to 27, 59-32, by quarters end. Johnson was a big part of that, scoring nine points, including a four-point play that sent the Ohio bench and Bobcat faithful into a frenzy and put the Bobcats up 21.

Johnson, who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for a second consecutive game, is entering her name into the running for MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. The redshirt freshman is shooting 44.4 percent (12-of-27) from the field and 50 percent (8-of-16) from three. She’s also totaled eight steals in the Bobcat’s first two tournament games.

“It’d mean a lot. It’d be very special. I couldn’t do it without my teammates, my coaches. They push me to my limit and they know what I can do,” Johnson said regarding the potential of winning tournament MVP. “They believe in me when I don’t believe in myself. Sometimes if I find my head down, they’re picking me up. So to just get that accomplishment would be phenomenal.”

For the second straight game, the Bobcat defense came to play and shut down one of the best players in the MAC in Miami’s Lauren Dickerson.

The RedHawk senior guard was held to just five points, tying a season-low and shooting just 2-of-20 from the field, which is a season-low for the All-MAC first teamer.

“We sat on her right hand, pushed her left. We got up and pressured her. We made sure we didn’t give her any easy shots because she’s the type of player, she gets easy shots, she’s going to make 99 percent, probably 100 of her easy shots,” Ohio guard Amani Burke said. “So we just made sure to limit her good shot selection. We just kept reiterating push her to the side she doesn’t want to go to to make her uncomfortable.”

Ohio’s defense also forced 17 turnovers in the game and scored 23 points off of the RedHawk turnovers.

The offense for the Bobcats was just as important as the defense to keep Miami from clawing their way back into the game.

Ohio finished with five players in double figures. After Johnson’s team-leading 18, Cece Hooks added 16, Burke tallied 12 and Gabby Burris threw in 10. Coming off the bench, Deesh Beck tied a career-high with 10 points while also grabbing six boards.

“I thought she was great. She just was aggressive and attacked when it presented itself but passed when it didn’t,” Boldon said of Beck. “I thought she played a really good floor game.”

There is no time for the Bobcats to celebrate this win, however. Less than 24 hours after the final buzzer sounded in the semis, the ball will be tossed up to start the championship game.

And once again, the Bobcats will get a chance to win the season series against a MAC East division rival in Buffalo.

The No. 4 Bulls defeated the top-seeded Central Michigan Chippewas on Friday morning to advance to the title game and defeated the Bobcats by 30 just over two weeks ago on February 27.

The Bobcats know they can’t think too much about that game.

“Very short, like that game didn’t happen. But again, we can use that game as motivation. You just move on from it. We won the first outing, they won the second outing,” Johnson said. “The team who plays the hardest and stays with it and sticks with the game plan and executes the game plan will win, so we just have to stick to our principles.”

There’s some debate on whether or not the Bobcats have an NCAA tournament-worthy resume heading into their game on Saturday morning. ESPN’s Charlie Creme has Ohio in as a No.11 seed and all of the computer rankings seem to point to the Bobcats receiving an at-large bid to the tournament if it comes to that.

“I don’t think it changes our approach. I think regardless if we were getting into the NCAA or NIT, WNIT tournament, I think we knew we had the first goal was to win the whole MAC. That was our first goal,” Burke said. “Then after that, just see if we could win the NCAA Tournament.”

“Our goal is to get a ring, so we want to do that by winning our conference first,” Johnson added. “Everyone wants to go dancing. You’ve got to take care of business first.”

The Bobcats will get their chance to take care of business on Saturday morning. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. from Quicken Loans Arena.