Ohio Women’s Basketball: ‘Cats Advance to Elite Eight of WNIT< < Back to
ATHENS, OH — March has been a month of milestones for the Ohio women’s basketball team. It started back on the seventh of the month when head coach Bob Boldon won his 124th win. Just two days later, in the Bobcats’ final regular season game, junior Amani Burke became the 16th member of the 1,000 point club.
After a strong runner-up performance in the MAC Tournament left them without an NCAA Tournament bid, they found themselves in the WNIT with something to prove. Their first win over High Point was another milestone moment when the ‘Cats won their 28th game of the season, a new program record. During their second-round WNIT game, Cece Hooks also joined the 1,000 point club.
But Thursday night provided two more landmarks in Ohio basketball history.
With the Bobcats’ (30-5) 68-60 victory over Western Kentucky (20-15), Ohio not only advanced to the WNIT round of eight for the first time, but they also became the first team, men or women, to win 30 games in a single season.
“It’s great. This is a year that we’ll look back on and be really proud of,” Boldon said. “At some point, this season will come to an end and I think we’ll look back and be proud of what we’ve done. But that time is not now.”
But to get to this point, the Bobcats once again had to battle. Despite coming into the game with the 301st ranked defense in the country, the Lady Toppers’ size made it tough on the Bobcats all night.
“I definitely feel like we have different ways of winning,” Burke said. “If it’s not our offense, it’s our defense.”
Every time the ‘Cats would build out a nice lead, Western Kentucky would come back. With 9:20 left in the second quarter, Dom Doseck hit a three to put Ohio on top by 10, but would not make another shot for over six minutes of game time, allowing the Lady Toppers to tie the game at 22. Amani Burke got a layup to go in the closing seconds of the first half to send the Bobcats to the locker room with a 32-31 advantage.
Both teams played fairly even to start the third as well. Neither team was able to make any headway in the first six minutes and the Bobcats held a 42-40 lead with 4:15 to play in the third. That was when the Ohio team that played the second half of the Middle Tennessee State game took the floor.
“I thought we got more aggressive in the fourth quarter and got some good shots,” Boldon said. “We’re patient and we took the shots we wanted to take.”
In the final 14-plus minutes of game time, the Bobcats made nine of their final 18 field goal attempts and held Western Kentucky to just 6-of-18 from the field while forcing four turnovers.
A big factor in the win on Thursday night was the atmosphere in the Convo. The crowd of nearly 1,500 was loud and engaged for the entire 40 minutes.
“It was kind of surreal. Our student section was so live. I saw some football players, some volleyball, some track. I was like ‘wow, they actually came out for us’,” Burke said.
“I feel like we fed off their energy. They were hype the whole game,” Hooks added. “Even when we got down, they were excited.”
Four Bobcats were able to feed off that energy enough to finish the game in double figures.
Hooks led all scorers with 21 points while also grabbing four rebounds. Burke was next with 15 points and four boards. Gabby Burris added 12, with 10 of those coming in the second half and Erica Johnson tossed in 11 points while dishing out four assists.
The Elite 8 round of the WNIT brings the Bobcats a new challenge they have yet to face in the tournament: a road game.
The Bobcats will be traveling to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon, but the change in venue doesn’t dampen their expectations.
“We do well on the road when there’s a big crowd against us and we have a lot of pressure on us,” Burke said.
There will be a similar crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday night, except they will be wearing purple instead of green.
“When the tournament started, (the girls) wanted to win the whole thing,” Boldon said. “In my opinion, you have to go through and play the next game.”
The Bobcats sit just three wins away from being crowned as the 2019 WNIT champions. Tip-off for the first of those three against Northwestern is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday.