Cece Hooks stands up with some assistance from her teammates during their game against Western Kentucky University. The Bobcats won 68-60 Thursday, March 28, 2019. PHOTO: Baxter Turain/WOUB

Ohio Women’s Basketball: Last-Second Loss Bites ‘Cats for Second Time in Seven Days

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KALAMAZOO, MI — Twice in their last three games, the Bobcats held a one-point lead with less than 10 seconds to play.

They’ve now lost both games. 

Western Michigan (10-5, 3-1 MAC) handed the ‘Cats (9-6, 2-2 MAC) another gut-wrenching conference loss when Bronco junior Leighah-Amori Wool banked in a shot with seven seconds to play on Wednesday night.

Much like all three of other their MAC games this season, the Bobcats were able to jump out to a big lead early. In those games, Ohio jumped out to a 12-point lead in the opening quarter at the very least. The Broncos were able to keep it a bit closer with the Bobcats maxing out at just a six-point lead, but the ‘Cats were doing well to keep them at arm’s length, leading 21-15 after 10 minutes.

However, with the Bobcats up three just over two minutes into the second frame, Erica Johnson was down on the floor, grabbing at her lower back in obvious pain. A few minutes later, she was helped off the floor by the training staff and didn’t return for the remainder of the half.

But despite Ohio being without their second-leading scorer (14.8 ppg) and best distributor (4.7 apg), the ‘Cats managed to hang on to their slim lead for much of the quarter. They lost it momentarily with just over a minute to play but ended the first half with a 5-0 run to take a 32-29 lead into halftime. 

Cece Hooks did the bulk of the damage in the first half, totaling 17 points and three steals in 19 minutes of play.

Much to the surprise of many, after being gingerly helped off the floor in the second quarter, Erica Johnson was on the floor to start the second half. She helped provide a spark to push the ‘Cats out to their largest lead of the game, 43-36, with just under six minutes to play in the third.

Western Michigan quickly erased that lead, however, by scoring the next five points and ultimately taking a 50-47 lead after a 14-4 Bronco run. Once again, the Bobcats bounced back to lead 53-52 at the end of the third.

The final quarter was a back-and-forth affair consisting of nine lead changes over the course of 10 minutes. The Bobcats had the largest lead of the frame, holding a 67-62 advantage with five and a half minutes to play. However, over the final five-plus minutes of the game, the ‘Cats shot just 1-of-6 from the field but hit 5-of-6 free throws. The only miss coming with 14 seconds to play when Hooks split a pair of foul shots to put the ‘Cats up by one.

On the ensuing Bronco possession, Wool banked home the game-winner.

For the second time in MAC play, and perhaps uncoincidentally in both of their losses, the Bobcats shot 25 percent or worse from beyond the arch. They were just 5-of-25 (25 percent) from long range on Wednesday night. 

The Broncos outscored them 39-15 from that range by finishing 13-of-34 (38 percent) from three. They came into the game averaging just 27.2 percent from long distance.

Hooks did her best to make up that difference by ending the game with a season-high 28 points while also grabbing five rebounds and tallying six steals. It was the fifth time in her last eight games that the junior has scored more than 20 points.

Johnson bounced back from what looked like a scary injury to score 14 of her 18 points in the second half. She also nearly racked up her fourth double-double of the season, finishing one rebound short with nine.

No other Bobcat scored more than eight points and the duo of Hooks and Johnson and they combined to hoist up 40 of the Bobcats’ 52 field goal attempts on the night. They made 17 of those to post a combined shooting percentage of 42.5 percent. The other seven players that saw the floor for Ohio shot just 36.3 percent (8-of-22).

Perhaps the most frustrating stat over the first couple of weeks of MAC play comes in on the last line of the box score: In their first four games in MAC play, the Bobcats have held a lead for 127 minutes out of a possible 160. 

They’re just 2-2.

They’ll get their chance to bounce back on Saturday, though. Ball State (11-5, 3-1 MAC) pay their yearly visit to the Convo coming off of a 66-39 beatdown that was handed to them by Central Michigan.

The ‘Cats game against the Cardinals is set to tip-off at 1 p.m. on Saturday.