Ohio Women’s Basketball: Hooks’ Big Day Sends ‘Cats to WNIT Sweet Sixteen

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ATHENS, OH — With 5.6 seconds remaining in a tie game, Cece Hooks caught the ball deep on the right wing and pivoted to face the basket.

Hooks takes a hard jab step to her left to get her defender off-balance with 4.2 seconds left. That jab gave her just the space she needed to drive the baseline towards the basket.

With 3.1 seconds left, she’s blown by her defender and has the angle she needs to swerve passed the help defender to get as easy a layup as she could have hoped with 1.7 seconds remaining.

The ball first hit the backboard with 1.4 seconds left and bounced around the rim for an entire second before dropping through as the final buzzer sounded.

Hooks hit the game-winning shot on a day that was full of accomplishments for the sophomore to give the Bobcats (29-5) a 59-57 win over Middle Tennessee State (23-11) to advance to the Sweet 16 of the Women’s NIT.

“We were going to go to her (at the end of the game),” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said. “When Cece, or any of these kids get going, we’re going to ride them. Cece was the most efficient in the fourth quarter.”

The buzzer-beating layup was just the cherry on top for Hooks. In the middle of the third quarter, she broke her own single-season steals record. In her freshman year, she had 100. So far in her sophomore year, she has 102 and was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year.

“The award that she got, she earned. She affects the game greatly at that end of the floor,” Boldon said. “To have 100 steals your first two years of college basketball is incredible.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Hooks also surpassed 1,000 career points in just her 64th game.

“I’m happy to score 1,000 points in my sophomore year. Rarely does anyone do that,” Hooks said. “It was really awesome to do that for my teammates.”

Hooks finished the game with a game-high 18 points to go along with her four steals.

Cece Hooks wasn’t the only story in the Bobcats’ win. Down six points at halftime, the Bobcats needed to adjust their game plan to fit the flow of the game. They needed to play their best defense of the season to defeat the Blue Raiders.

They did just that. For the first time this season, the ‘Cats won a game where they scored fewer than 65 points.

“Going into halftime, we weren’t as good defensively as we needed to be and then we came out and gave up 23 points (in the second half),” Boldon said. “It was really nice to see.”

The Bobcats gave up just seven points in the third quarter to help them come back from their halftime deficit.

In the second half as a whole, the Bobcats held Middle Tennessee to just 9-of-25 (36 percent) from the field while also racking up 10 turnovers. For the game, Ohio forced the Blue Raiders to commit 19 turnovers.

“It feels good to win a game where it’s not just running up and down scoring points,” Boldon added.

The Bobcats’ offense was doing the exact opposite of that for much of the game. Middle Tennessee came into the game with the 22nd ranked defense in the country. They made it tough on Ohio all night.

“I feel like they were speeding us up. I don’t know why but we weren’t running our offense,” Hooks said. “That kinda set us back.”

Every possession felt like it meant more because of the slow pace that the Raiders instilled on the game. But Ohio had the last possession and made it count.”

“It’s March. Survive and advance,” an ill-sounding Erica Johnson said.

Despite the apparent illness, Johnson finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds. Gabby Burris added nine points and four rebounds while Amani Burke had eight points and eight boards.

Thanks to the win, the Bobcats have been granted at least one more home game. Western Kentucky (20-14) will make the trip to Athens for the third round of the WNIT.

The Sweet 16 game between the Bobcats and Lady Toppers is set to tip at 7 p.m. on Thursday.