Katie Barker (2) plays defense during the Bobcats’ 78-41 win over Incarnate Word on November 23, 2019. PHOTO: Nick Viland/WOUB

Ohio Women’s Basketball: Bobcats’ Defense Dominates Incarnate Word

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ATHENS, OH — A little under a week ago, the Bobcats delivered one of their biggest wins in program history – defeating Ohio State in Columbus. One of many games Ohio has scheduled against premier opponents in the early part of the season. 

However, sandwiched in the middle of those games was a home matchup with Incarnate Word. A game, on paper, that has all the looks of one that could get overlooked.

The Bobcats didn’t fall for that trap.

Behind a suffocating defense and an explosive second quarter, the Bobcats (4-1) dismantled the Cardinals (2-2) 78-41 on Saturday afternoon in the Convo.

“I thought that given the game we played before and the game we play next, to come in here and really try to get better. That’s what we need,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said. “It was nice to see that today.”

After a slow start in the first six minutes of the game, the Bobcats kicked their offense into high gear to close the quarter on a short run to push their lead out to nine, 18-9, by quarter’s end. The Cardinals hit a three early in the second to cut the Ohio lead to eight, but that was the closest they would get for the final 29:31 of the game.

The ‘Cats shot 8-of-14 on their way to a 25-point second quarter, but the bigger story was their defense. In the first half, Ohio forced 15 UIW turnovers leading to 16 easy points for the Bobcats.

For the game, Ohio ended up forcing 27 Cardinal turnovers, 19 of those being steals, and scoring 32 points off of them. 

“I thought it was really good. I mean, 19 steals is an incredible amount of steals,” Boldon said. “We’d be happy if we forced 19 turnovers.”

“That’s attributed to kids watching tape and being in the right spot and then making plays,” he added.

Ohio’s defense also held Incarnate Word without a field goal for over seven minutes in the second quarter, a drought that was broken by a half-court heave at the buzzer. The Cardinals came out of the locker room just as cold, missing their first five shots of the third. 

All told, if the half-court shot is ignored, the Bobcats kept UIW from making a shot for over 12:21 of game time. In that time, the Bobcat lead ballooned from 13 to 34.

“Our defense was really good,” Ohio forward Deesh Beck said. “We played how we’re supposed to play.”

Incarnate Word finished the game shooting just 31 percent and with 12 more turnovers than made shots.

Ohio was also able to get it done on the other side of the court as well, despite not having their best night from beyond the arch.

“We go through stretches where we only shoot threes, so we’re constantly fighting that,” Boldon said. “We’re always going to shoot threes, but we have to find some balance. I thought we did a good job of getting to the rim, particularly early.”

The Bobcats made just six threes in the game, their lowest total of the season, but still managed to shoot near 50 percent from the field. 

Boldon credits some of that to the interior passing his team showed in the game. 20 of the Bobcats’ 29 made buckets in the game came off an assist. 

“One of their best qualities is that they’re unselfish. You can see as you look at the stat sheet that it’s not just Cece and Erica,” Boldon said. “It’s a number of kids that are willing to drive, pass and share the basketball.”

Eight of the Bobcats that saw the floor on Saturday afternoon registered an assist with Erica Johnson leading the way with five.

Johnson also had a great night shooing the ball. She finished a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, scoring 15 points and grabbing six boards to go along with her assists.

It was Cece Hooks that did the most damage on the offensive end, scoring 18 points, going 6-of-7 from the field. She also added three assists and two rebounds to her stat line.

Gabby Burris rounded out the Bobcats’ double-figure scorers with a 15-point performance of her own while grabbing four rebounds and three steals.

After a brief reprieve in the schedule, the Bobcats are right back on their track through a gauntlet. They will have five days off before traveling to Daytona Beach to take part in an invitational tournament.

They are currently scheduled to face Pittsburgh and Butler on consecutive nights next Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s matchup is with the Pitt Panthers (2-3) and tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. in the Ocean Center.