Ohio Women’s Basketball: ‘Cats Fall to Central Michigan on Last-Second Shot

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ATHENS, OH — On Wednesday night, the Bobcats took 23 more shots than their opponent. They forced 13 more turnovers, grabbed 13 more offensive rebounds and shot seven more free throws.

Typically, these are things that win basketball games, especially teams as good as Ohio. Those things weren’t enough to overcome Central Michigan, though.

“We missed a lot of shots. You got to make shots,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said, seemingly at a loss for words looking at the box score. “We got to put our kids in a better situation.”

The ‘Cats (8-5, 1-1 MAC) put up a season-high 82 shots but made just 29 of them en route to a last-second loss to Central Michigan (9-4, 2-0 MAC), 73-71, on Wednesday night in the Convo.

While it was the worst shooting performance the Bobcats have had on their home floor since late-February of last season, the game started out just the opposite. Behind some hot shooting from Erica Johnson, Ohio jumped out to as much as a 15-point lead in the opening quarter.

The 24 points the Bobcats scored in the first quarter Wednesday night represent the most they’ve scored in a single quarter since the second quarter of their win over Incarnate Word on November 23.

They shot 9-of-20 (45 percent) from the field and 4-of-8 from three to build a 12-point lead at the end of the quarter. Ohio would go on to shoot just 32.3 percent (20-of-62) over the final 30 minutes and hit just two of their final 17 three-point attempts.

“I thought the first quarter was great,” Johnson said. “We just have to learn to play all four quarters.”

The second quarter was not only the worst the Bobcats endured on the offensive end, but they also watched Chippewas erase their double-digit lead with an 18-0 run that spanned 4:19 of the quarter, ending with Central Michigan holding a five-point lead.

During the run, the Bobcats played through missing 10 consecutive field goals while the Chips sank 8-of-10 including a pair of threes from Gabrielle Bird.

“We’re not going to call timeouts in that situation. We never have and we never will. There’s a learning mechanism that you have to play through it,” Boldon said. “(Timeouts) are just too valuable at the end of the game to not have.”

In the end, the final buzzer sounded with Boldon having one timeout left in his pocket.

“In the first half, it teaches the team how to deal with it…and the media timeout didn’t come until later,” Boldon added. “It’s certainly something worth criticizing. I probably should have called timeout, but it never crossed my mind.”

The ‘Cats were able to respond a bit after the media timeout finally came with 2:49 to play until the half, but the damage had been done. What had once been a 15-point lead was flipped to a one-point deficit heading into halftime.

After the game, the players offered up a potential reason for what appeared to be a Bobcat team that was sluggish for stretches of the game.

“We are sick, but that’s not an excuse,” Johnson said.

When asked to clarify, she said “around seven” members of the team were battling illness to varying degrees coming into the game.

“Couple people with the flu, a couple more just sick,” she added.

“I know it was tough for Amani (Burke), she had a fever of 101° before the game,” Ohio guard Cece Hooks said. “She played pretty tough.”

“We just got to play through these things, it’s not an excuse,” Hooks added.

Playing with a fever, Burke finished with just seven points and shooting 3-of-13 from the field and 0-of-6 from beyond the arc.

While the Bobcats failed to generate their normal production from three-point range, it was their shooting within three feet of the basket that proved to be their downfall. In shots from layup range, Ohio made just 23-of-51 attempts. In their previous five home games this season, they had not taken more than 29 shots from that range and they made them at a rate of 54 percent.

Many of those close attempts seemed to be missed due to the Bobcats rushing layup attempts or taking shots from difficult angles.

“I thought our shot selection, at times, was poor. We certainly could have taken better shots and I think that’ll be the message we talk about tomorrow at practice,” Boldon said. “This team, when they’re taking good shots, they’ve made them.”

“We missed some easy ones and took some tough ones and that’s a bad combination,” he added.

Missing that many shots close to the basket can ultimately take its toll on the team.

“Missing layups and floaters is way more frustrating than missing a three,” Johnson said.

But even after all that, the Bobcats held a 71-70 lead with 10 seconds to play before Bird knocked down what became the game-winning three from the wing.

“It looked like we got a hand up and she made a tough shot,” Boldon said. “She deserves a lot of credit for making that shot.”

Following a timeout, Johnson, who had put the Bobcats in front twice in already in the final 30 seconds, had a chance to tie the game, but her shot fell just short.

“I got the look that I wanted. I knew that she was going to foul me, so in my head I was thinking ‘take the contact and finish’ instead of just ‘finish’. I did get fouled, but I can’t leave it to the refs,” Johnson said. “I should have just finished…that’s on me.”

The Bobcats have very little time to dwell on this loss, however. They move from one MAC powerhouse in Central Michigan to another in Buffalo.

The last time Ohio faced the Bulls was in the MAC Championship game in Cleveland. This time, the game will be on the Bulls’ home court and the Bobcats will have to get back on track against a team they struggled against in their final two meetings last season.

Tip-off in Alumni Arena is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday.