The Bobcats’ hopes of winning the Mid-American Conference regular season took a hit on Wednesday with a 69-66 loss at Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, Mich.
The loss snapped a three-game win streak for Ohio (8-5, 6-4 MAC), which fell into a tie with EMU (9-6, 6-4) for seventh place in the conference standings. Kent State (4-0 MAC), Bowling Green (8-2) and Buffalo (6-2) hold the top three spots, while Central Michigan (7-3), Ball State (5-3) and Northern Illinois (5-3) round out the top six.
The Bobcats played without sophomore guard Peyton Guice, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Ohio never found an offensive rhythm and was held to a season-low point total.
Senior guard Cece Hooks nearly provided enough on a night when OU shot just 37.1 percent overall and only 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range. Hooks bucketed a game-high 29 points, and added team highs of 11 rebounds and four assists, as she logged her first double-double of the season.
Hooks had 21 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth, as the Bobcats spent most of the first 3.5 quarters chasing the Eagles.
“Cece (Hooks) gave us a chance tonight. We just weren’t able to capitalize on it,” head coach Bob Boldon said. “Her energy and effort gave us a chance to win, but it just wasn’t our night.
“We made some nice, spectacular individual plays, but we did need to clean up our offense. We were sloppy at times. We knew this was going to be a tough one. EMU is a very good team and trying to win here is a tough task.”
Forward Ce’Nara Skanes powered EMU with 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Arenna Combs (15 points) and Natalia Pineda (13) also hit double figures.
Erica Johnson added 13 points and eight rebounds for Ohio, but shot just 25 percent overall with a 1-of-7 mark from long distance. Gabby Burris had 12 points and seven rebounds, but hit just 1-of-5 from 3-point range. Kaylee Bambule had nine points on three 3-pointers.
Ohio clawed back from a six-point halftime deficit, and took the lead three times in the fourth quarter with the last coming at 59-58 with 3:04 left on a pair of Hooks free throws.
But Combs answered with two free throws to get the lead back, and Terrysha Banner hit a left-side 3-pointer with 1:58 left to give the Eagles a 63-59 lead. Ohio cut the margin to two twice more, but never got any closer.
Johnson hit her only 3-pointer with six seconds left to pull OU to within 69-66. After a steal from Hooks, and a time out, Ohio was unable to get the potential game-tying shot off.
The Bobcats barely led at all in a defensive-themed first half. Ohio hit just 1 of 11 from 3-point range in the half, and shot only 32.4 percent overall. The ‘Cats last lead came at 10-9, with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
Eastern Michigan led the majority of the first two quarters, and pushed the margin out to nine points – at 31-22 – late in the second quarter before settling for a 31-25 lead at the break.
Johnson, back after missing one game due to concussion protocol, had just four points on 2-of-9 shooting including an 0-for-4 mark from 3-point range. Hooks, fresh off 38 points in the comeback win at Western Michigan, had eight points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Ohio begins a two-game homestand on Saturday with a visit from Akron (4-8, 1-8) in the Convo.