While the Ohio women’s basketball team played 29 games last season, they sure didn’t look like a functioning unit. To begin the 2013-14 campaign on Sunday against the Xavier Musketeers (0-1), the Bobcats (1-0) took the court as one and came away with as many victories.
Behind a barrage of three-pointers, nearly 20 assists and lockdown defense in the second half, the ‘Cats came away with a 94-88 victory to begin the season at home.
“These kids are very, very unselfish,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said regarding the team’s victory. “We don’t have a player who won’t pass it to an open player.”
The Bobcats came out with an aggressive defensive attack, which cost them early on in the game. The Musketeers were beating Ohio to the boards on almost every possession. Freshman forward Destini Cooper quickly realized this early disadvantage and boxed out the Xavier offense.
“I was nervous only for the first few minutes, and after that it just went away,” Cooper said.
One minute prior to the 11:45 mark in the first half, however, Ohio had only tallied five fouls. In that 60-second span, Ohio’s D picked up three fouls and fell behind the Musketeers by a score of 16-12.
But Ohio became more disciplined on defense afterwards, and the offense followed suite by leading a 5-0 run to take a 17-16 lead at the halfway mark of the first period. The teeter-totter affair at the Convocation Center Sunday afternoon continued throughout the remainder of the first half. Ohio needed a spark to get out of striking distance and back in front of the Musketeers, who had regained the lead after an 8-0 run.
Coming off the bench as a catalyst for the Bobcats was sophomore guard Kiyanna Black, who converted all four of Ohio’s three-point attempts in the first half. The Green & White sharpshooter finished the day with 35 points on 8-of-13 shooting from three.
Behind Black’s superb hand from long range and a physical presence down low provided by forwards Cooper and sophomore Lexie Baldwin, Ohio only trailed Xavier 41-38 at the half despite the Musketeers shooting 50 percent from the field.
“My complaint was that I thought we left too many points out there,” Boldon said of the team’s performance. “We missed too many free throws and we missed a couple layups here and there, and with the turnovers we didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities to score.”
Ohio came out a re-energized team in the second half, something that fans at the Convo weren’t used to seeing last season when Ohio finished 3-11 at home. Five minutes into the second half was when Ohio started to pull away behind the smooth stroke of Black.
Ohio started the game 1-of-5 from behind the arc as a team, but Black soon turned Ohio’s perimeter woes around in the second half with a full-on three-point arsenal. The sophomore started the second half 3-of-4 from long range, building Ohio’s biggest lead of the day, 70-58, with less than 10 minutes to go.
“You can’t get too carried away with it, but hearing the crowd and having fans there gives you more energy because I’m not used to seeing that many people at our games,” Black said.
The 2012-13 women’s basketball team only topped 70 points three times last season, but the ‘Cats constantly fought in the second half of the season opener to keep the Musketeers at a distance.
The success of the Bobcats offense started with the team’s ability to share the ball. Ohio finished with 18 assists and also out-worked the Musketeers in that category 11 assists to three in the second half.
“Transition-wise we were just running, and whenever we would get out and run, we would score,” junior guard Mariah Byard said.
Even though the offense opened up the final 20 minutes with a 27-12 run, shooting 50 percent from the field, the defense was the key to Ohio burying Xavier in the game’s second act. The ‘Cats forced the Musketeers into shooting 1-of-7 from the field behind a 9-4 rebounding advantage.
“During halftime that’s what we stressed a lot: Getting stops on the defensive end,” Cooper said.
The dominant defensive performance in the second half was headed by Cooper, who opened up her Bobcat career with a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds). But as a team, Ohio still surrendered nearly 90 points and allowed the Musketeers to get within four points before the four-minute mark.
That was when Byard took charge on a freshman-heavy roster by nailing a two-point dagger in the eye of the opponent. With a six-point lead, Ohio was then able to close things out at the free throw line.
“These freshmen have never been in a game where they’re up six with 30 seconds to go to figure out how to finish it,” Boldon said, “but now we have.”
The Bobcats will travel to Morehead, Ky. next to take on the Morehead State Eagles (2-0) on Sat., Nov. 16. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Ohio won’t play at the Convo again until Dec. 14.
- Guards Byard and Black combined to shoot 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) from beyond the arc
- The last time Ohio scored 94 points in a regular season match was Feb. 2, 2008 in a 94-85 win over Western Michigan
- Three-pointers accounted for 64.7 percent of the combined 51 points Byard and Black totaled
- The Ohio women’s basketball team will feature six freshmen on its roster this season (five who saw playing time on Sunday), including starting guard Quiera Lampkins and Cooper
- Although the Bobcats shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, the team finished 23-of-39 (59 percent) from the charity stripe
- Despite a slow start on the boards, Ohio out-rebounded Xavier 41-34