Bobcats clipped at end of WNIT opener vs. Clemson

Cece Hooks has turned in dozens of critical, game-clinching or game-turning plays during her collegiate playing career.

On Friday afternoon, she was on the other end of one.

Ohio forward Gabby Burris (41) had 17 points during the Bobcats’ 65-60 loss to Clemson in the first round of the 2021 WNIT on Friday, March 19 in Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics

Clemson’s Delicia Washington poked the ball away from a driving Hooks with less than 10 seconds remaining to wrap up a 65-60 win over Ohio in the first round of the 2021 WNIT at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte.

The Tigers (12-13) led 61-60 with 14.5 seconds left after 6-foor-4 center Tylar Bennett banked in a foul-line jumper from the right elbow. The Bobcats (14-9) gave the ball to Hooks, their honorable mention All-American, on what would be their final possession.

Hooks started to drive down the left side of the lane, but had the ball poked free by Washington, who rushed toward the other end. Washington was fouled on the shot attempt, and at some point in the sequence Ohio was called for a technical foul; it was labeled a team technical in the official box score.

The end result was four free throws for the Tigers, who made all of them, and possession of the ball with 4.9 seconds left. Ohio never got the ball back.

Clemson picked up its first-ever win in the tournament (1-1), and advances to second-round matchup with Delaware (22-4), a 77-49 winner over Fordham on Saturday.

Ohio fell to 4-4 all-time in the WNIT, and will face Fordham in a consolation bracket elimination game on Saturday at 11 a.m. The ‘Cats could earn a third game in the tournament, on Monday, with a win over Fordham.

Hooks finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals – all team highs – to lead Ohio. She played 37 minutes, and OU was outscored 12-0 during the three minutes she missed due to foul trouble over the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter.

Senior forward Gabby Burris added 17 points for Ohio. Junior guard Erica Johnson had 11 points and five rebounds, but shot just 3 of 17 overall and was 2 of 11 from 3-point range. Freshman forward Madi Mace had 10 points.

Washington had a game-high 19 points for Clemson, and chipped in seven rebounds and six assists – but also struggled with nine turnovers. Gabby Elliott pitched in 16 points and Amari Robinson contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Ohio trailed 56-48 with eight minutes left in the fourth when Hooks returned to the floor, and she quickly sparked a 6-0 burst. The Bobcats pulled to within 59-58, and then took the lead at 60-59 with 48.4 seconds left after Mace converted a left-side drive.

But Bennett’s jumper provided the only made field for the Tigers over the final six minutes, and broke a string of eight straight empty possessions.

Clemson, with a size advantage across the board, enjoyed a sizeable 49-31 edge in rebounding. The Tigers cashed in 23 offensive rebounds for just 18 second-chance points.

Ohio was plus-seven in turnovers (16 to 23), but shot just 38.7 percent overall and was dreadful from long range (4 of 22, 18.2 percent).

Ohio trailed at the half 31-29, despite a red-hot start. The Tigers opened the game with a made 3-pointer for a 3-0 lead, then missed their next 10shots from long range.

The Bobcats hit their first six shots from the field, shredding Clemson’s half-court man-to-man defense point-blank layups and a 13-3 lead before the game was even four minutes old.

But the Tigers switched to a zone, and bogged down the ‘Cats with their superior size. Clemson, buoyed by 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, trailed 18-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers continued the momentum in the second with an 11-4 run to take the lead 24-22 on Elliott’s 3-point play.

Clemson led by as many as five before Burris, who had 13 points in the half, pulled OU to within two with a back-door layup with 20 seconds left.

Down 44-39 midway through the third quarter, Ohio landed a 9-0 run – with five points from Johnson – to take a 48-44 lead. But Hooks picked up her fourth foul with 38 seconds left in the quarter and Clemson scored the next 12 points – four in the third, eight more to start the fourth – to take control.

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