CLEVELAND, Ohio –Despite 24 points from sophomore guard Cece Hooks, the No. 2 Ohio women's basketball team (27-5) was unable to overcome No. 4 Buffalo (23-9) and fell to the Bulls, 77-61, in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship game, Saturday afternoon (March 16) inside Quicken Loans Arena.
After the game, Hooks was named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Bobcats were led by Hooks (Dayton, Ohio), who scored 24 points, going 10-of-19 from the field, 2-of-4 from three-point range and 2-of-4 from the free throw line. Hooks also grabbed five boards and dished out four assists. Senior guard Dominique Doseck (Athens, Ohio) finished with 15 points, going 5-of-10 from three-point range. Junior guard Amani Burke (Columbus, Ohio) finished with 11 points, while redshirt freshman forward Erica Johnson (Mansfield, Ohio) finished with four points, but grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds.
Overall, Ohio shot 39.3 percent from the field, 32.1 percent from three-point range and 80.0 percent from the free throw line, while Buffalo shot 41.5 percent from the field, 44.8 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the free throw line. Buffalo out rebounded the Bobcats, 46-29, while Ohio dished out 12 assists, had four steals and three blocks to the Bulls 20 assists, five steals and one block.
"The margin of error is so small that victory's going to favor the people who probably shoot it a little bit better and make fewer mistakes," head coach Bob Boldon said. "There's not such a significant difference between skill that you can have a 20 percent difference in shooting percentage. You just can't make that up in any form. So you've got to be a little bit better at lowering their percentage and raising yours if that's the case."
Buffalo would win the opening tip, but the Bobcats got on the board first with a three from Burke. Buffalo tied the game up with a three of their own, but a layup from Burke moments later put Ohio back up. A layup from Hooks and a three from Doseck increased the Ohio lead to 10-6 before a free throw from Buffalo would tie the game up at 10-10 entering the media timeout. Out of the timeout, Buffalo would go on a 7-0 run to take a 17-10 lead, before Johnson would hit two free throws to stop the run. A layup from Hooks moments later would cut the lead to 17-14, but back-to-back threes from the Bulls would give Buffalo a 23-14 lead after the first quarter.
Ohio opened the second quarter with back-to-back three pointers from Doseck, cutting the UB lead to 23-20. However, the Bulls would go on a 13-0 run to take a 33-20 lead. A three from Hooks stopped the run, but the Bulls would get another layup, taking a 38-23 lead into the media timeout. After two free throws would put UB up 40-23, two free throws from sophomore forward Gabby Burris (Baltimore, Ohio) and a layup from Hooks cut the Bulls lead to 40-27. After a free throw from Hooks bring the Bobcats within 12, Buffalo hit a three at the buzzer, giving Buffalo a 43-28 lead entering halftime.
Overall, Ohio shot 33.3 percent from the field, 31.3 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the free throw line, while Buffalo shot 38.9 percent from the field, 52.9 percent from three-point range and 75.0 percent from the free throw line. Buffalo out rebounded the Bobcats, 25-18, Ohio dished out six assists, had three blocks and no steals, compared to Buffalo who had 12 assists, no blocks and three steals.
UB opened the third quarter with a three before Burris drained two free throws to bring the game to 46-30. A Burke layup, sandwiched between two Buffalo threes extend the Bulls lead to 53-32, before Doseck drained a three of her own. A Hooks layup and a Johnson jumper would bring to score to 53-39, but a UB layup give the Bulls a 55-39 lead going into the media timeout. After UB got a layup out of the timeout, Burke would get a layup, followed by a Hooks free throw to cut the lead to 57-42. Over the remaining two minutes, Buffalo would only score two points, and back-to-back layups from Hooks cut the Bulls lead to 59-46 at the end of the third quarter.
Ohio opened the fourth quarter with a layup from Hooks, cutting the lead to 59-48. After another UP make, Hooks would drain her second three of the game, Ohio and UB traded baskets, including a banked in three at the buzzer from Burris, cutting the UB lead to 65-54. A corner three from Doseck would bring Ohio within eight with 4:55 left in the game. UB increased the lead to 69-57 before a Hooks layup cut the lead back to 10 with 3:18 to go. Moments later, Hooks fouled out. After a layup from Burke would cut the lead to 72-61, a Bulls three with 53 seconds to go would seal the deal for Buffalo, with the Bobcats falling by the final of 77-61.
For Buffalo, Cierra Dillard finished with 22 points, going 8-of-21 from the field, while Hanna Hall finished with 17 points while shooting 5-of-9 from three-point range. Summer Hemphill finished with 16 points and 21 rebounds.
Up next, the Bobcats await their postseason fate with the NCAA Women's Selection Show set for Monday, March 18. The show is set to begin at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Following the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, the WNIT bracket will be unveiled within an hour of the selection show.
"I do know if we don't make the NCAA Tournament and we get invited into the NIT, that we will play and I'm certainly looking forward for an opportunity for this team to play again," Boldon added. "It will be against a high‑level team and that will be really good for us both to close out this year and moving forward with the young kids that we have. So I guess I'm just hopeful at this point and I'll be tuning in like the rest of you Monday night and we'll see what happens."