Thrice as nice: Hooks’ powers OU into MAC tournament

With the game in hand, Ohio University women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon had one pressing question left in the fourth quarter of the Bobcats’ 84-70 regular-season ending win over visiting Miami on Saturday afternoon in the Convo.

“Am I going to be the jackass to take her out of the game one steal short of a triple-double?” Boldon said. “I said ‘I was not.’

Ohio guard Cece Hooks (1) drives on trio of Miami defenders en route to her first career triple-double and a Bobcats’ victory in the Convocation Center on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Photo by Jason Arkley

“I’m glad it came somewhat organically.”

Guard Cece Hooks, the two-time Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, conjured up another career highlight on Saturday. She claimed the program’s second-ever triple double after posting 31 points, four rebounds, 11 assists and 10 steals.

Hooks, who hit 14 of 19 shots, picked up her 10th steal with 5:23 remaining and Ohio leading by 17 points. She checked out soon thereafter and sat the final four minutes as Ohio (13-7, 11-6 MAC) clinched the No. 3 seed for the 2021 MAC Tournament.

Hooks, both Ohio’s single-season and career record holder in steals (389 total) never dreamed she get the coveted stat line with takeaways as one of the key markers.

“No, that’s hard,” she said. “I was just in the right place, right time.”

Boldon said he was dumbfounded when Hooks broke the career 2,000-point barrier earlier this season. He was flummoxed again on Saturday.

“I thought that was absurd,” Boldon said. “Then the next thing she does trumps the last thing. The more you talk about it, the more incredible it is.

“Of course she got it with steals…how else would she do it?”

Hooks joins current teammate Erica Johnson as the only players in program history with triple-doubles. Johnson logged a 24-point, 13-assist, 11-rebound triple-double on Nov. 10, 2019. With three on the men’s side, there have only been five such games in school history.

“They’re both amazing players,” said forward Gabby Burris, like Hooks and Johnson a 1,000-point scorer. “You expect nothing less from them.”

The accomplishment was doubly special for Hooks, as it came on the same day Johnson returned to the lineup. Johnson had not played since Jan. 30 because of a knee injury, but logged 21 minutes and scored 11 points in her return to the floor.

“She’s my best friend on the team,” Hooks said. “It’s really special.”

Miami (4-20, 3-13) concluded a start-from-scratch season, but was game for most of this latest edition of the “Battle of the Bricks.” Katie Davidson and Kelly McLaughlin each scored 15 points for the RedHawks, and Peyton Scott added 13.

Ohio scored the game’s first six points, but Miami answered with an 11-0 run capped by 3-pointers on three straight trips down the floor. When Davidson bucketed the RedHawks’ fifth 3-pointer of the quarter, Miami led 21-14 with 1:41 left in the opening frame.

But Hooks scored six points in the final 90 seconds, including stealing an in-bounds pass for a layup with five seconds left to give OU a 22-21 lead.

Miami tied it at 26, but never led again. Abby Garnett, making her first collegiate start, hit a 3-pointer to start a 15-7 surge to end the half and Ohio led 45-36 at the break.

The Bobcats led just 63-55 after three quarters, but buried the RedHawks with a 17-4 run over the first 5:40 of the final quarter. Hooks scored nine points in an 11-0 run, with a pair of steals mixed in, to put the game away.

Burris added 15 points for Ohio, which played without starting guards Kaitlyn Kroll (COVID-19 issues) and Kaylee Bambule (injury). The Bobcats have 14 players on the roster, and 10 of them have started games this season.

Ohio lost one starter to transfer (Edecia Beck) early in the season, and another (Peyton Guice) to season-ending knee injury after conference play began. Johnson has missed six total games this season, and the team has had issues practicing normally as COVID-19 protocol has further reduced the active roster size at times.

But thanks to Hooks and a roster that has seen players get better throughout the year, the Bobcats remained relevant in the MAC race. If Johnson rounds into pre-injury from, the Bobcats will have a chance to win next week’s tournament in Cleveland.

“I’m pretty proud of my team,” Hooks said. “We did good with a lot of things to deal with this season.

“I’m glad we’re still able to go play.”

Ohio begins the tournament on Wednesday with a 6:30 p.m. start (approximation) against No. 6 Ball State in the fourth and final quarterfinal of the day at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Ohio won in the same round a year ago, but the tournament was canceled before Ohio got to play in the semifinal round due to the pandemic.

2021 MAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

Wednesday, March 10 – Quarterfinals
  • Game 1: No. 1 Bowling Green (18-5) vs. No. 8 Eastern Michigan (10-9), 11 a.m. (ESPN+)
  • Game 2: No. 4 Buffalo (14-8) vs. No. 5 Kent State (11-8), approximately 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
  • Game 3: No. 2 Central Michigan (15-8) vs. No. 7 Northern Illinois (12-11), approximately 4 p.m. (ESPN+)
  • Game 4: No. 3 Ohio (13-7) vs. No. 6 Ball State (14-10), approximately 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Friday, March 12 – Semifinals
  • Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 10 a.m. (ESPN+)
  • Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, approximately 12:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Saturday, March 13 – MAC Championship
  • Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 11 a.m. (CBS Sports Network)

The MAC has instituted some special rules for this year’s tournament, which I outlined in detail for the men’s bracket piece elsewhere on this site. The 48-hour cut-off date for the women’s tournament is Monday at 11 a.m. If a team drops out before that time, the teams will be re-seeded and brackets re-drawn. If a team has to drop after that threshold, then the opposing side will simply advance via a no-contest ruling.

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