Bobcat basketball teams look to make noise in MAC Tournament< < Back to
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOUB) — Survive and advance. That cliché statement has now become the motto of many college basketball teams around the country looking to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament this week during conference tournaments. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams for Ohio University will have that chance in Cleveland this week when they compete in the MAC tournament this week.
Despite being the conference favorites to win the MAC regular season title, the Ohio women’s basketball team didn’t have the regular season they were probably hoping for. Injuries, COVID-19 cancellations, and heartbreaking losses were the main storylines of this Ohio team that finished the regular season 15-13 overall and 9-10 in conference play.
Seven of Ohio’s 13 losses were by seven points or fewer. In their season finale on Saturday, the Bobcats lost to Kent State 59-50 in what the team thought was their last game of the season. With the loss, Ohio finished tied for eighth in the MAC standings because they split the season series with Kent State. According to MAC rules, Ohio actually held the tiebreaker over the Golden Flashes because Ohio split the season series with top-seeded Toledo and Kent State did not earn a win against the Rockets.
So, by the narrowest of margins, the Ohio women’s basketball team will make the trip to Cleveland. The Bobcats will look to flip the narrative as they finished the season losing three of their last four games and eight of their last 12 games.
After starting the season with a record of 19-3, the Ohio men’s basketball team struggled down the stretch, losing five of their final nine games. Regardless of how the season ended, the 2021-2022 regular season was one of the best in program history as the Bobcats finished with a 23-8 record.
The reigning 2021 MAC tournament champions were picked to finish second in the conference for this season and their 14-6 conference record was good enough to earn the third seed in the upcoming postseason tournament. Notably, Ohio finished the regular season with a 2-4 record against Toledo, Kent State and Akron, the three other teams to round out the top four spots in the MAC standings.
One of the big reasons the Ohio men’s basketball team struggled down the stretch was slow starts. In some key games late in the season, Ohio faced double digit deficits at the half. That includes a 30-point halftime deficit to Kent State, a 38-27 halftime deficit at Toledo and a 20-point deficit to Akron on senior day.
On top of that, the Bobcats found themselves tied at the half with a Miami RedHawks team that finished ninth in the conference standings and trailing Northern Illinois, who finished near the bottom of the conference standings, by six at the half in the season finale.
A Pair of Trios Leading the Way
Both the Ohio men’s and women’s basketball teams have three players that stand out among the rest.
For the men’s team, it’s the trio of Mark Sears, Ben Vander Plas and Jason Carter. Sears led the team in scoring, averaging just over 19 points per game. He also averaged a team-high 4.3 assists per game and was the team’s most reliable shooter from distance with a 41.6% three-point shooting percentage. Sears’ play was good enough to earn him some recognition for the MAC player of the year award for much of the season.
Ben Vander Plas and Jason Carter give Ohio the veteran leadership and presence in the paint. BVP averaged just shy of 14 points per game while Carter averaged 13.6 points per game. Vander Plas also added 6.7 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game. Carter averaged 6.3 rebounds per game and was the team’s most reliable shooter on the season, shooting a team-high 46.3% from the field.
Similar to the men’s team, the Ohio women’s team is also led by a standout guard. Cece Hooks had a record-breaking season that saw her become Ohio’s all-time leading scorer and the MAC all-time leading scorer. The senior guard averaged 22.4 points per game and added just shy of four assists per game and just shy of three steals per game on 47.2% shooting from the field. Hooks also added a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game.
Erica Johnson and Gabby Burris complete the trio for the women’s basketball team. Johnson finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per game. She also averaged a team-high 4.5 assists per game. Burris also added 14.1 points per game and grabbed six rebounds on average.
For both the men’s and women’s basketball team, a lot of their success will ride on the backs of their trio of star players for the upcoming MAC tournament.
Aside from the trio of star players for both Ohio teams, they have also started to find consistent contributions from some of their depth players. For the Ohio women, Yaya Felder has found that role of being a reliable contributor for the team. Because of injuries and COVID-19 cases throughout the season, Felder has seen extensive playing time and made the most of it, averaging 12 points per game in the last ten games.
The Bobcats also saw the return of sophomore guard Peyton Guice from injury who has put in some good minutes in her two appearances this season. She has yet to surpass 19 minutes of playing time in either game she has played, but it wouldn’t be surprising if she gets some valuable minutes in the near future.
On the men’s side of things, Tommy Schmock has emerged as a threat from deep. Schmock has made a lot of appearances off the bench and has had some serious impacts. The senior guard has seen a steady incline in his playing time as the season has progressed and the stats show for it as well. In the last nine games of the regular season, Schmock averaged 12 points per game on 39% shooting from deep. Along the way, Schmock has had some impressive showings including a season-high 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting from deep against Central Michigan on February 22.
Tough Paths Ahead
As the third seed in the MAC tournament, the Ohio men’s basketball team will face Ball State, the sixth seed in the opening round on Thursday in the time slot of the last game of the day. The Bobcats won the only matchup in the regular season, 87-63 on February 1.
After the quarterfinals, Ohio could face some steep competition in the semifinals and on. A win against Ball State would mean a matchup with the winner of the 2-7 matchup between Kent State and Miami. The Bobcats split the season series with the Golden Flashes, but Kent State got throttled Ohio by 23 in the second meeting of the season. Despite sweeping the season series with Miami, the RedHawks did play the Bobcats tough in their second meeting on February 15.
If Ohio were to win their first two games in the tournament, they would return to the championship game on Saturday for the second consecutive year. More than likely, it would be against Toledo, the top ranked team in this tournament. The Bobcats were swept by the Rockets in the regular season series this year.
After sneaking into the tournament as the eighth seed, the Ohio women’s basketball team will take on top-seeded Toledo in the opening round for the first game Wednesday morning. The Bobcats split the season series with Toledo, including a 79-72 win in Toledo on January 26 and a 73-76 loss at home on February 16.
If Ohio were to get past Toledo in the quarterfinals, they would take on the winner of the Ball State-Northern Illinois matchup. During the regular season, the Bobcats went a combined 0-3 against those teams.