[Andrew Bowlby | WOUB]

Abby Garnett and Yaya Felder connect on game winning alley oop to push Ohio over Northern Illinois

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – With under three seconds to play, Ohio sophomore guard Yaya Felder rose above the Northern Illinois defenders to lay it in and grab a much needed 72-71 victory. 

The Ohio Bobcats (5-18, 3-9 MAC) played host to the Northern Illinois Huskies (12-11, 4-8 MAC) looking to bounce back after a 37-point loss to the Bowling Green Falcons. 

The contest was tight early with both teams trading buckets. The Bobcats shared the wealth in the first 10 minutes, with a number of players getting in on the action. Northern Illinois tried to take the ball out of Felder’s hands. Felder came into the contest the leading scorer in the MAC, dropping over 20 points a game. Head coach Bob Boldon was pleased with how Felder dealt with the defensive game plan. 

“This is the second game in a row where people have really tried to take the ball out of her hands, which is a good strategy,” he said. “I assume that’s going to happen the rest of the year. That can be frustrating and she showed no signs of frustration.”

Sophomore guard Yaya Felder (2) drives against Ball State defenders
Sophomore guard Yaya Felder (2) drives against Ball State defenders [Alex Eicher | WOUB]
Ohio took hold of a three point lead, 22-19 at the end of the first quarter. The Bobcats were efficient with the basketball and utilized their guard play. However, the Huskies were able to hang around thanks to their rebounding. Northern Illinois tallied 14 offensive rebounds in the game which generated a lot of easy looks around the basket. 

Ohio saw its lead get cut to two going into the locker room after a back and forth second quarter. Redshirt junior forward Abby Garnett was huge in the quarter, knocking down a pair triples to give Ohio momentum. Both sides continued to battle in the paint with Northern Illinois’ A’Jah Davis keeping the Huskies in the game. Davis finished 22 points and 17 rebounds on the day, getting NIU a lot of second chances. 

Out of the break, Northern Illinois seized momentum. The Huskies continued to battle inside, but got production on the perimeter off the bench. Senior guard Janae Poisson checked into the contest and let it fly. Poisson hit five threes on the day and finished with 17 points. 

That shooting continued into the fourth with OU surrendering its biggest lead of the game. The Bobcats found themselves down six after another Poisson three with under 10 minutes to play, but redshirt senior Caitlyn Kroll said the team didn’t blink. 

“I think we still have a lot of confidence in each other,” she said. “There’s not been many times where we’ve been up in a lot of games so we know what it feels like to keep battling. So I don’t think that scared us at all.” 

Ohio crawled its way back thanks to a huge fourth quarter performance from Felder. Felder was quiet for the first 30 minutes but dropped 15 points in the fourth. 

“I just had to step up,” Felder said. “I realized it was going downhill a little bit.” 

Felder gave Ohio a three point lead with under two minutes to play with an and-one layup and it seemed the Bobcats would take full control of the game. But out of the timeout, Northern Illinois reclaimed the lead, 71-70 with 12 seconds to go. 

Ohio had to take two timeouts in the last 12 seconds to try and draw up a final play. With one second to go, Garnett inbounded the ball from the far sidelined and threw a cross court alley oop to a leaping Felder. Felder maintained control in the air and layed it in to give Ohio a 72-71 lead with a second to play.

“I told the kids plays don’t work, players work.” Boldon said. “The players made that play work. It was maybe one of the best plays we had all year. It was a really special moment and a good time to have it I guess.” 

Garnett credits both Boldon and her teammates.

“Yaya is really good at creating her own shot,” she said. “Coach Bob just gives us a play to come down the wire and execute it and I think we all had confidence Yaya was going to go up there and grab it.”

The Huskies had one more chance to steal the moment from the Bobcats but Davis’ layup wouldn’t fall and Ohio picked up its fifth win on the season. 

“Things haven’t gone our way quite a bit this year and tonight they did,” Boldon said. “It’s a weird sport because two teams played really hard and a ball bounced one direction instead of the other by about an inch … That’s kind of the joy and agony of sport.” 

Ohio celebrates this joy but quickly sets its sights on the Ball State Cardinals. The Bobcats look to knock off the top ranked Cardinals on Feb. 15.