In short, there was no way Cece Hooks was going to let her team lose on Saturday.
Sure, she was missing her partner as junior guard Erica Johnson wasn’t available due to a head injury suffered on Wednesday. Then sophomore guard Peyton Guice, another starter and good perimeter defender, went down with a serious knee injury midway through the first quarter.
Ohio couldn’t find the range from the 3-point arc, and Hooks was saddled with three first-half fouls and had four before the fourth quarter even started.
But all of that, however disappointing, frustrating or – in the case of Guice – disheartening it was, didn’t matter.
The Bobcats had Hooks, and the Broncos did not. And that was everything.
Hooks piled up a season-high 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting to lead Ohio in another comeback effort in a 69-63 win at Western Michigan’s University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Bobcats (8-4, 6-3 Mid-American Conference) capped an eight-day sequence that included a win at Central Michigan, a similar defeat-defying comeback versus Buffalo on Wednesday, and Saturday’s gritty win.
“Coming off the Buffalo come from behind win, we had to drive for several hours to play a noon game on Saturday,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said. “We had to decide to quit or fight back. We fought back and showed some toughness. We methodically got stops, made shots and put some runs together to get the win.”
Hooks was the center of the comeback against the Broncos (2-8, 1-7 MAC). She hit 14 of 23 shots overall – the rest of the roster was just 11 of 41 – and posted team highs with eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots, and threw in two steals for good measure.
Hooks also didn’t have a turnover in 32 minutes on the floor. She finished with a plus-19 rating; the next best player on the floor had a plus-nine.
“Cece (Hooks) was fantastic tonight and she scored the ball efficiently,” Boldon said. “She rebounded the ball and was plus-19 on the floor. That plus-19 a huge number and nobody else was even close to that number. Everything she did today was fantastic, and she didn’t turn the ball over once. Cece did a great job of leading the team, taking the pressure of Erica (Johnson) not being on the floor and willing us to win.”
Ohio trailed 55-48 entering the fourth quarter, and Hooks accounted for 12 points over the final 8:41. She scored seven of her own, and her two assists came at key times.
She fired to Kaylee Bambule for a left-corner 3-pointer that gave Ohio its first second-half lead at 62-60. Two possessions later, she left the ball for Madi Mace for a layup that snapped a 63-63 tie with 67 seconds remaining.
After that, Hooks hit two free throws with 23.5 seconds left and Caitlyn Kroll hit two more with 4.4 tics remaining to sew it up.
And while it was Hooks who played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, it was the Broncos who wilted under the pressure. Western Michigan hit just 1 of its last 9 shots, and had four turnovers, inside the final seven minutes.
WMU, with Hooks flying all over the floor, managed only eight fourth-quarter points. The Broncos led 39-28 at the half, and by as much as 14 in the third quarter.
Hooks scored 19 of Ohio’s 28 first-half points as the team struggled without Johnson, and hit just 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half. When Guice was injured, the defense also took a hit with the Broncos piling up 22 second-quarter points.
But Hooks and the Bobcats found a way. It was the fourth-highest individual scoring game in program history, and the second-highest total for Hooks; she had 41 in a game at Akron last season.
Along the way, Hooks became the second-leading scorer in program history. She now sits at 1,879 points, and trails only Caroline Mast (2,449).
No one else hit double figures for Ohio. Gabby Burris had nine points and eight rebounds, while Mace finished with seven points and eight boards off the bench. Bambule, starting in place of Johnson, had nine points on a trio of 3-pointers.
Reilly Johnson had 17 points and 10 rebounds for WMU, and Taylor Williams added 13 points and 13 rebounds. But the Broncos were done in by turnovers, as the Bobcats created 18 takeaways and turned those into 11 points.
The win moved Ohio into a tie for fourth in the overall MAC standings. The Bobcats travel to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday for a matchup with the Eagles (8-6, 5-4 MAC).