For the first time this season Cece Hooks was less than great.
Not coincidentally, the Bobcats – for the first time this year – weren’t in the game at the very end either.
Bowling Green never trailed and dropped the visiting Bobcats 69-53 at the Stroh Center on Saturday afternoon. In short, it was the worst game of the season for Ohio (10-6, 8-5 Mid-American Conference), which dropped two games behind the Falcons (14-4, 10-3 MAC) in the standings.
“They did a good job of turning us over,” Ohio head coach Bob Boldon said in a postgame radio interview. “That’s why they’re the best team in the league.
“We’ll just keep trying to get better incrementally.”
Ohio set season lows in points (53), shooting percentage (34.0 percent, 18 of 53) and 3-point shooting percentage (18.5 percent, 5 of 27). The Bobcats also had a season-high 23 turnovers, which the Falcons turned into 25 points.
“We were really, really stagnant offensively,” Boldon said. “This is the most turnover (prone) team I’ve had here since my first year. It’s very perplexing, it’s frustrating.”
Hooks, the senior guard who has averaged north of 30 points per game over the last six games and entered as the nation’s second-leading scorer, was held to a season-low 12 points. Hooks hit just 3 of 10 shots, and missed the majority of the first half after a first-quarter collision appeared to leave her dazed.
Hooks had just two points until the latter stages of the third quarter. By that time, Bowling Green had used a 15-2 run to start the second half to create a 52-30 lead.
Hooks added five rebounds, three assists and three steals, but also was guilty of a career-high nine turnovers.
Freshman Madi Mace tied a career high with 13 points and notched seven rebounds, and Caitlyn Kroll added 13 points and five rebounds for Ohio, which played a second consecutive game without junior guard Erica Johnson (knee).
Elissa Brett had a career-high 21 points and added seven rebounds to lead BG. Nyla Hampton added 14 points, and Kadie Hempfling chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds.
The Falcons started hot, and hit four of their first eight 3-pointers to surge out to a 14-7 lead in the game’s first eight minutes. Hooks left the game for the rest of the half after her collision with 2:36 left in the opening quarter.
Mace’s driving bucket tied the game 24-24 with 4:09 left in the half, but it was as close as the Bobcats got to the lead the entire day. BG responded with an 11-0 run and led 37-28 at the break.
The Falcons then opened the second half with the game-deciding run.
OU closed to within 12 points, at 59-47, with just under six minutes left, but Brett’s back-door layup and a 3-pointer from Hampton staved off the comeback.
Ohio didn’t make a field goal over the last 6:21 of the game, and shot just 6 of 25 (24 percent) overall in the second half. OU was 1 of 13 from 3-point range after halftime.
“We can’t live at 18 percent from the 3-point line,” Boldon said.
Johnson remains game-to-game, and Ohio will likely need the junior on Wednesday when they travel to Ball State (9-5, 7-3 MAC). The Cardinals won at Ohio earlier this season. The ‘Cats played Saturday with just nine available players for a second consecutive game.
Saturday felt like a low point for the Bobcats, who lost by more against BG (16 points) than the combined margin of their first four MAC setbacks (12 points). The Falcons have now won consecutive games against Ohio after snapping an 11-game skid vs. OU in 2020.
Still, given the pressures facing every team this season and the precarious nature of the schedule – look at the Ohio men’s schedule for proof – Boldon said he’d take a road loss over sitting at home doing nothing.
“We didn’t play very well, but we got to play,” he said. “And that’s better than not playing.”