Cece Hooks’ onslaught on the Mid-American Conference continued Saturday as the Bobcats dismantled visiting Akron 85-55 inside the Convocation Center.
Unfortunately for Ohio, so did the assault on the depth chart.
Hooks erupted for 31 points in 30 minutes, hitting 13 of 18 shots and 4 of 5 from 3-point range along the way, to lead Ohio (9-5, 7-4 MAC) in its easiest conference game of the season. It was a breath of fresh air for OU, which just emerged from a rugged four-game set of games that featured tight finishes, dramatic comebacks and a nightly test of the club’s depth.
“It’s been a bumpy road,” Hooks said. “The next day…we put it behind us.
“But today was fun for everybody. I don’t think anybody was not smiling today.”
That included Erica Johnson, Hooks’ back-court teammate. She left the game in the third quarter with left knee soreness. She tried to return to open the fourth, but couldn’t continue. But even Johnson, who finished with 12 points and five assists, managed to grin at the end as OU played backups the entire fourth quarter.
Ohio head coach Bob Boldon has already seen two starters lost for the season. One, forward Edecia Beck, left the program in December. Another, guard Peyton Guice, was lost for the year with a knee injury suffered at Western Michigan on Jan. 23. But he sounded positive regarding Johnson afterward.
“She’s been battling knee pain throughout the year,” Boldon said. “Usually, we have to deal with this after games, it was just a little earlier today.
“We’ll see what we can do and see if we can get her ready for Wednesday.”
Hooks has been ready every time out for Ohio. Her 31 points on Saturday marked the third 30-point game of the season for the senior, and the eighth of her career. She’s scored at least 20 points in 12 of 14 games this season, and no fewer than 18 all season long.
Over the last five games, Hooks has averaged 30.4 points per contest. On Saturday she added five rebounds, five assists and three steals, and set the tone early on.
OU never trailed, and never worried after Hooks make her first three 3-pointers to help the Bobcats to a 12-2 lead less than three minutes in. Ohio connected on 8 of 11 from 3-point range in the opening frame and led 34-20 after 10 minutes.
“She’s so dialed in,” Boldon said. “The tempo she’s playing with…I don’t know if I’ve seen five games like this from a player. It’s pretty impressive.”
Gabby Burris added 16 points and seven rebounds for Ohio, which led just 46-35 at the break. But the Bobcats opened the second half with a 13-0 run, and beat the Zips (4-9, 1-9) by a 24-4 count in the third quarter to blow the game wide open.
Akron had just one field goal in the third quarter (1 of 15 shooting). The Zips shot just 33.3 percent overall (18 of 54) and 22.2 percent (6 of 27) from 3-point range. Ohio clobbered Akron on the glass 53-25 and raked in 18 offensive rebounds. Caitlyn Kroll led the efforts there with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“We’re lit about that,” said freshman Madi Mace, who had five points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench. “That’s awesome. That’s crazy…it’s something we work on for every game.”
Hooks believes Johnson will be available when Ohio hosts MAC-leading Kent State on Wednesday.
“She’s gonna get through it,” Hooks said. “We definitely need her.”
The Golden Flashes (5-2, 4-0) technically lead the MAC with an unbeaten conference record, but haven’t played a game since Jan. 9 due to COVID-19 protocol issues within their program, and others. KSU has seen six straight games postponed, including Saturday’s home game against Eastern Michigan due the Eagles’ own COVID-19 issues.
“Who knows?” Boldon said when asked if he believes his team will get the scheduled rematch against KSU on Wednesday. “It’s 50/50.”
The Flashes beat Ohio in the first matchup, 84-80, back on Dec. 11, 2020. Even that game was pushed back once, due to OU’s lone coronavirus flare up so far this season.
Hooks isn’t worried in any case.
“We’re just going to wait our turn, they have a lot of games to try to make up,” she said. “We wish them the best of luck.”