It was, in the parlance of the sport, a 50/50 call.
The coin-toss came down on the wrong side for the Bobcats, however, and Ohio had another heart-breaking result against Central Michigan as a result.
Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Cece Hooks fouled out with 8.1 seconds left in regulation, and the No. 2-seeded Chippewas took advantage in overtime to stop Ohio, 100-92, on Thursday afternoon at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in a 2021 MAC Tournament semifinal.
Ohio (14-8), the No. 3 seed, had the ball in an 85-85 tie ballgame with 31.4 seconds remaining. After a time out, Hooks dribbled the ball out top before attacking down the right side of the lane. Hooks got by one defender, slid past another then collided with CMU forward Jahari Smith around the right block.
The whistle blew. The call was made, and the Bobcats’ fate was essentially sealed.
Hooks, after posting team highs of 23 points, seven rebounds five assists and seven steals, wasn’t on the floor for overtime. CMU (17-8) scored the first eight points in extra time and won going away in a game that was a tight, shot-making classic for 40 regulation minutes.
For Hooks, a senior, it could be her final game as Bobcat. Ohio could land a WNIT berth, and Hooks could elect to return next season. But there’s also the chance Hooks would elect to try to play professionally, and a WNIT bid would seem to a longshot this season.
Ohio head coach Bob Boldon declined to comment on the call against Hooks – “What are you trying to do to me?” he said when asked – but admitted the standout took it hard.
“She tried her best,” Boldon said. “There’s nothing I can tell her that will make her feel better right now.”
Both teams were locked in offensively throughout what became just the latest in a string of matchups between the teams featuring star power, tons of offense and tight finishes. CMU shot 52.2 percent overall on its way to improving to 9-2 in the last 11 against Ohio.
The Chips had not one, but two 30-point games from its pair of standout guards. Molly Davis tallied 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting with five 3-pointers. Micaela Kelly — the 2020 MAC MVP — posted 32 points, with 5 3-pointers, while adding six rebounds and nine assists.
“It certainly feels like we’ve played this game before (vs. CMU),” Boldon said.
CMU had four in double figures and it was Smith, a forward, who shined late. She finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and converted 9-of-10 shots from the field.
“She sparked us big time,” said CMU head coach Heather Oesterle.
Junior guard Erica Johnson backed Hooks with 23 points, five rebound and three assists. Playing with just one good leg, however, Johnson struggled in the overtime where she missed all five of her shots. She judged herself to be at about “70 percent” due to a knee injury that cost her a month of the regular season.
“We had to stay locked in and had to figure out a way to get it done (in overtime),” Johnson said. “Whenever (Hooks) gets in (foul) trouble, we have to have someone else step up. It was kind of hard to do that today.”
Senior forward Gabby Burris had 17 points for Ohio, and freshman wing Madi Mace added 16 points and six rebounds.
OU took its last lead of the game at 70-69 on Burris’ steal-and-layup, and notched ties at 78 and 90-all, in a game that featured 13 lead changes and nine ties.
But CMU led 85-80 with nine seconds left before Mace gave the Bobcats a chance. Johnson found her cutting for a layup with 1:20 left, and then Mace tied it with a corner 3-pointer off Hooks’ pass with 52 seconds left.
After Kelly missed a 3 for CMU, Ohio cleared the rebound and called timeout to set up a final play. Hooks was called for the charge on the next sequence. The Chips failed to get a quality look at the buzzer to win it, but knew they had the edge in OT without Hooks to deal with.
“Absolutely,” Davis said. “Whenever she is off the court, we like to take advantage of that.”
Smith and Kelly converted 3-point plays, and Davis hit two free throws as the Chips took a 93-85 lead in overtime as OU missed its first five shots in extra time. OU never got in within seven points after that.
“At that point (in OT) you’re out of good strategies,” Boldon said.
CMU advances to Saturday’s championship game where it will face No. 1 seed Bowling Green. The Falcons (20-5) dispatched fourth-seeded Buffalo 80-67 in Friday’s other semifinal.
The MAC Tournament championship is set for an 11 a.m. start and will air live on CBS Sports Network.
2021 MAC Women’s Basketball Tournament
Wednesday, March 10 – Quarterfinals
- Game 1: No. 1 Bowling Green 63, No. 8 Eastern Michigan 47
- Game 2: No. 4 Buffalo 73, No. 5 Kent State 66
- Game 3: No. 2 Central Michigan 83, No. 7 Northern Illinois 69
- Game 4: No. 3 Ohio 61, No. 6 Ball State 59
Friday, March 12 – Semifinals
- Game 5: No. 1 Bowling Green 80, No. 4 Buffalo 67
- Game 6: No. 2 Central Michigan 100, No. 3 Ohio 92 (OT)
Saturday, March 13 – MAC Championship
- Game 7: No. 1 Bowling Green (20-5) vs. No. 2 Central Michigan (17-8), 11 a.m. (CBS Sports Network)