The Bobcats were at the end of any conceivable wiggle room, as far as winning the Mid-American Conference regular season was concerned.
So, they came out swinging.
Buoyed by a 16-point run in the first quarter, Ohio posted a 93-84 victory at Central Michigan on Saturday that not only rekindled hope in a title run but also exorcised some recent, and plentiful, unpleasant memories against the Chippewas.
The win snapped a three-game skid against CMU for Ohio (6-4, 4-3 Mid-American Conference), with the trio of setbacks coming by a combined seven points. It was just the second win in the last 10 head-to-heads for OU against the Chips (7-4, 5-2).
Ohio still sits in a tie for sixth place in the MAC standings, but remains just 1.5 games off the pace set by Kent State (5-2, 4-0). The win also ended CMU’s 17-game home winning streak. The Flashes were idle on Saturday after their game with Western Michigan was called off due to COVID-19/roster issues.
“We showed a lot of character and toughness today and those are two things as the season goes on we are very excited about,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said.
“Our backs were against the wall and we were looking at having a losing record in the conference for the first time in a long time,” he added. “That gets your attention and they had to do it against the best team in the conference and they did just that. The team deserves a lot of credit.”
Guards Cece Hooks and Erica Johnson both posted 26-point games; For Hooks, it was her ninth game this season with at least 20 points. It was Johnson’s sixth 20-point game of the year.
Caitlyn Kroll notched her third straight game in double figures with 12 points, and Gabby Burris added 15 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Madi Mace had a career-high 12 points, with six rebounds and three steals, off the bench.
Micaela Kelly posted a game-high 34 points for CMU, which didn’t receive a single bench point and played while staring down a double-digit lead for most of the final three quarters. Molly Davis added 20 points, and Jahari Smith had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Chips last lead came at 6-2, with less than three minutes gone in the contest. Ohio responded with 16 straight points, with the last six coming from Burris, and never looked back.
The Bobcats led by 12 (26-14) at the end of the first, led 41-32 at the half, and took a 65-52 lead into the fourth. OU led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, and still led 76-60 with 6:25 left after Hooks converted an offensive rebound for a bucket.
Then things got a tad dicey. Hooks fouled out with 5:48 left, turnovers mounted and Boldon’s approach of divvying up just 36 bench minutes appeared to be having an adverse effect.
“Through 35 minutes we had five turnovers, then we threw it all over the gym,” Boldon said.
CMU got as close as five points, at 89-84 after a Kelly 3-pointer with 30.2 seconds left. But Johnson and Mace both were a perfect 4-for-4 at the foul line inside the final minute and the Bobcats stamped their best win in MAC play this season.
There will be little time to savor the skid-buster for Ohio. The Bobcats are scheduled to host rested Buffalo (8-3, 5-1) on Wednesday in Athens. OU will go from one rivalry game to another, while the Bulls had the weekend off after a scheduled game with Ball State was postponed due to COVID-19/roster issues with the Cardinals.