PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski/WOUB

Ohio Women’s Basketball: Hooks’ Double-Double Propels ‘Cats Past IUPUI

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ATHENS, OH — When the Bobcats set their schedule back in early September, their intentions were clear. They were going to prove that they could play with the premier teams of women’s college basketball.

The downside that comes with that is that there would be very few easy games for the ‘Cats in the season’s early going. Ohio’s matchup Saturday with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was certainly not one of those easy games.

The Bobcats (6-2) were able to hold off the Jaguars (4-4) 70-64 behind a strong defensive performance and Cece Hooks’ first double-double of the season to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Butler last Sunday.

“We used this week to work on the things we needed to work on,” Ohio forward Gabby Burris said. “We really screwed our heads on right and got to business.”

“We played really hard in practice this week and that set the tempo for this game,” she added.

The Bobcats got the chance to set the tempo early in the game and took it. They were able to hit 4-of-8 from three-point range in the first quarter to give themselves a lead heading into the second. But despite the fast start from long range, the ‘Cats couldn’t get much going from inside the arc, shooting just 3-of-11 from up close. 

After holding just a one-point lead after 10 min, Ohio quickly changed that early in the second as they started the quarter on a 10-4 run before the media timeout. That stretch was highlighted by a trio of steals, two by Johnson and one by Hooks, that led to five east points for the Bobcats.

However, the final steal-and-bucket combo, made by Erica Johnson, proved costly. The junior guard ran back up the floor with a slight limp after making the layup, and after giving it a try after a timeout, ultimately check out of the game for good 34 seconds later.

“I don’t know. We’ll find out more on Monday,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said on the extent of Johnson’s injury.

She did not come back out of the locker room with the team for warm-ups after halftime, but eventually returned to the bench on crutches and in street clothes, wearing a boot on her right foot.

“We were still able to do what we do, we’re a motion team and a man-to-man team,” Boldon said of how his team changes when Johnson is out. “We have a bunch of different players with different skill sets and that helps us interchange players.”

With an important road trip to Texas coming up, the Bobcats need their second-leading scorer to be able to return to action as quickly as possible. 

Even in just over 12 minutes on Saturday, Johnson’s presence was felt. She finished the game with seven points, four steals and two rebounds.

Other players were able to step up in her sted, both on offense and defense.

Hooks finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. She also drew a staggering 11 of the 19 fouls committed by IUPUI during the game, going to the line 13 times and converting on nine free throws.

“I think (the Butler game) reminded her to be more aggressive. She realized that there’s a certain standard that she holds herself to,” Boldon said. “It’s hard to stay locked in time after time, but I think she responded well today.” 

Burris also was able to take advantage of the opportunity, totaling 17 points to tie her season-high, scoring 13 of those points after Johnson checked out with 5:23 to play in the second quarter. She also brought down nine rebounds. 

The lead that Johnson helped build with that early second-quarter run was never relinquished by the Bobcats. Ohio never led by fewer than five points following that run and was able to keep the Jaguars at arm’s length for much of the game. 

They were able to do this thanks to a good performance on defense that saw them hold IUPUI under their season averages for points (66.7) and field goal percentage (42.8 percent). The Bobcats also forced 16 turnovers that led to 15 fast breaks and 14 points.

IUPUI was the first in a stretch of three games in-a-row that the ‘Cats play against teams ranked in the top 50 of the Ratings Power Index (RPI) in 11 days.

They travel to Texas in a week to play both Texas Christain (7-0) and Texas (4-4).

“The schedule was two-fold. It was, one, a chance for us to get an at-large bid, and, two, to prepare us for the conference,” Boldon said. “Butler could have been the beginning of a losing streak and it wasn’t. They deserve a lot of credit for that.”

That game against TCU will tip-off on Sunday, December 15 at 3 p.m. in Schollmaier Arena.