CLEVELAND, Ohio– Led by a double-double from redshirt freshman forward Erica Johnson and 19 points from sophomore forward Gabby Burris, the No. 2 Ohio women's basketball team (26-4) advanced to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2015, defeating the seventh-seeded Northern Illinois (19-13), 72-56, Wednesday evening inside Quicken Loans Arena.
"I thought we came out in the third quarter and really did a nice job of getting us some space," head coach Bob Boldon said. "Erica (Johnson) got us off to a good start and i thought Cece (Hooks) was tremedous in the second half."
Overall, Burris (Baltimore, Ohio) led the Bobcats with 19 points, going 8-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 from the free throw line. Burris added five boards and one assist.
"I thought her (Gabby Burris) shot selection was tremedous," Boldon said. "She got herself some easy ones. Stick backs, cuts, things of that sort. That's what makes Gabby so special. She doesn't just have to have the basketball in her hands in space like those two do. You saw her score in a variety of ways tonight which is what she is best at."
Johnson (Mansfield, Ohio) was next with 18 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth career double-double. Johnson went 6-of-18 from the field, 4-of-11 from three-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. in 35 minutes on the floor.
Sophomore guard Cece Hooks (Dayton, Ohio) finished with 16 points, shooting 8-of-17 from the field, while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists. Junior guard Amani Burke (Columbus, Ohio) finished with 12 points, going 5-of-11 from the field.
Senior guard Dominique Doseck (Athens, Ohio) had three points and addded two assists.
"I thought Northern did a great job of taking Dominique out of the game and I thought Dominique did a great job of not forcing things," Boldon said. "She got a couple of good looks and she did a great job of moving without the basketball, getting her teammates open and stretching the floor."
As a team, Ohio shot 43.5 percent from the field, 29.6 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free throw line, while NIU shot 34.5 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from three-point range and 61.5 percent from the free throw line. NIU out rebounded the Bobcats, 48-32, however, Ohio dished out 11 assists and had 15 steals to NIU's nine assists and one steal.
The Bobcats won the opening tip and would get on the board first with a three and a layup from Johnson that would put the Bobcats up 5-0 to open the game. After NIU would get on the board, Burris earned a layup of her own to stretch the Ohio lead to 7-2. After a three from NIU cut the Ohio lead to 9-7, Johnson hit her second three of the game, putting the Bobcats up 12-7 with 5:37 left. After both teams would go scoreless for about two minutes, a three from Burke put Ohio up 10 with 3:22 left. Two free throws from Johnson and a layup from Hooks would give Ohio a 21-9 lead. After a layup from Burris with 57 seconds left, NIU would hit a three at the buzzer, cutting the Ohio lead to 23-12 after the first quarter.
NIU would start the second quarter off on a 6-0 run, cutting the Ohio lead to 23-18 with 6:56 left in the half. A jumper from Deesh Beck (Grand Rapids, Mich.) stop the NIU run and would be followed by a jumper from Burke, giving the Bobcats a 27-18 lead. After NIU would cut the lead to 27-20, another three from Johnson would put the Bobcats back up 10 with just under five minutes to play. A three from Burke and a layup from Burris would give the Bobcats a 35-24 lead with one minute to go. After NIU would drain another three, a layup from Burris with an assist from Hooks, would put Ohio up 37-25 entering the half.
At the half, Ohio shot 41.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free throw line, while NIU shot 30 percent from the field, 30 percent from the three-point range and 66.7 percent from the free throw line. The Bobcats were out rebounded 26-16, however Ohio dished out five assists and forced 10 turnovers, scoring 12 points off of them, while NIU dished out three assists and only forced two turnovers, scoring two points off of them.
Ohio's Hooks opened the third quarter with the first four points for the Bobcats, giving Ohio a 41-25 lead. After NIU hit a three, Hooks responded with another layup with 7:03 to go. After NIU cut the lead to 43-30, a three from Johnson and back-to-back layups from Burke would give Ohio a 50-32 lead and force NIU to call a timeout with 5:18 to go in the quarter. After the timeout, Burris would drain another three-pointer, extending the Ohio lead to 53-32 with 3:48 left. After a three from NIU would cut the Bobcat lead to 53-37 with 2:02 left, back-to-back layups from Burris and Hooks would give Ohio it's largest lead of the game, a 57-37 advantage entering the final quarter of play.
A layup from Hooks would open the fourth quarter for the Bobcats, putting the Bobcats up 59-37 before NIU would go on a 5-0 run, cutting the Ohio lead to 59-42 with 6:25 left in the game. Another layup from Hooks would stretch the lead to 61-42. However, NIU would go on a 5-0 run before a three from Doseck extended the Ohio lead to 64-47. Ohio and NIU would trade free throws down the stretch, before a layup from Hooks would give the Bobcats a 68-52 lead with 2:25 left in the games. A layup from Burris and senior forward Kendall Jessing (Sylvania, Ohio) sealed the deal for the Bobcats, giving Ohio the 72-56 victory.
For NIU, Gabby Nikitinaite led the Huskies with 23 points, going 8-of-18 from the field, 4-of-9 from three-point range and 3-of-5 from the free throw line, while also grabbing 12 rebounds. Mikayla Voigt was next with 14 points, going 3-of-9 from three-point range.
Up next, the Bobcats advance to the MAC Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2015 and will take on the winner of No. 3 Miami and No. 6 Toledo on Friday, March 15 at 1:30 p.m.