ATHENS, Ohio — The Bobcats trailed for a total of 19 seconds, and led by at least 10 points for more than 34 minutes, during a 92-70 rout over Akron, on Wednesday night in the Convo.
Ohio (19-2, 8-2 Mid-American Conference) maintained its solo grip on the top spot in the MAC with the win. Akron (12-8, 3-6 MAC) lost for the fifth time in its last six games.
The Bobcats were powered by a pair of 20-point games. Redshirt freshman Erica Johnson had here second double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and matched a team-high with five assists. Sophomore forward Gabby Burris, back in the starting lineup for the first time in two weeks because of injury, added 21 points on 5 of 7 shooting.
Alyssa Clay had a blistering 25 points, on 9 of 14 shooting, off the bench for Akron. Shaunay Edmonds added 11 points and eight assists. Megan Sefcik, the fifth-leading scorer in the MAC, had 17 points on 5 of 13 shooting.
Ohio, the 10th highest scoring team in the country, broke the 90-point mark for a second consecutive game. The Bobcats hit 14 3-pointers, on 42.4 percent shooting, and had 19 assists. Sophomore guard Cece Hooks had 15 points and six rebounds, while junior guard Amani Burke added 16 points, five assists and two blocked shots.
The Zips scored the first two points of the game, but Burke made a 3-pointer on Ohio’s second possession, the Bobcats never trailed again.
Down 16 at the half, Akron did get the margin down to 10 in the fourth quarter, but Johnson, Burris and Burke hit three straight 3-pointers over four possessions to push the lead back to 19 and put the game away.
The Bobcats ripped the nets in the first five minutes and led by double figures for virtually the entirety of the first half.
Ohio missed its first three shots, then hit seven of the next eight to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 19-9 lead halfway through the first. Johnson hit a trio of 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the first quarter alone as the ‘Cats led 28-13 after the first 10 minutes.
Ohio led by 20, 37-17, early in the second quarter before settling for a 47-31 lead at the half.
Akron did cut the deficit to 11 points at one point, but Hooks buried a 3-pointers and Burris hit two free throws to stop the run.
Burke, who had 13 first-half points, bagged a left-side 3-pointer to cap the half in style for Ohio. The ‘Cats had eight 3s in the half, and assisted on 10 of 16 made field goals.
Ohio scored an early knock-out, and it was Johnson who delivered the most devastating series of punches.
With Ohio leading 11-9, Johnson hit 3-pointers on three of the next five possessions for Ohio, which kick-started a 17-0 run that sunk the Zips.
A pass set up Johnson in the right corner, then she engineered a step-back 3-pointer two possessions later. Her spot up 3 in the left corner finished the flurry, and had Ohio well on its way to a game-deciding run in the first quarter.
Johnson was brilliant in the first quarter — 11 points and six rebounds — and set the tone with her ability to make open jumpers and clean up the defensive glass.
Burris, limited in the last two games because of injury, moved better and more like her old self. It was her fourth 20-point game of the year, but her first since late December. Burris set a career-high with eight made 3-pointers.
Never known for their work on the glass, the Bobcats had one of their best games of the season with a +11 rebounding margin and 14 offensive rebounds.
Ohio continues to share the ball well. Four different players made multiple 3-pointers, and the Bobcats assisted on over half their made field goals.
The Bobcats lost focus a couple of times with a big lead, most notably in the third quarter when Akron scored 16 points in a span of 3:33 off the clock. The Zips got the margin to 10, or 11 points, three times in the second half, but each time Ohio responded with a mini-run to push the game again out of reach.
Hooks continues to work on her outside shot, and that led to some empty trips (1 of 5 from 3).
The ‘Cats had no answer for Clay, who seemingly hit everything after coming off the bench. She drilled deep 3s, and contested 3s, and even converted three tough drives off the dribble.
The Bobcats have a big one on Saturday, with a 1 p.m. start at Central Michigan. The Chippewas (16-5, 7-2 MAC) are one of three teams right on Ohio’s heels in the overall MAC standings.
CMU pounded Ohio, 88-70, back on Jan. 9 in the Bobcats’ home MAC opener.
Around the MAC
All six home teams won, and there were no upsets in a full slate of MAC games on Wednesday night. Miami (16-4, 7-2 MAC) and Buffalo (15-5, 7-2 MAC) kept pace with Ohio and CMU with home wins over EMU (63-58) and Toledo (73-63), respectively.
Elsewhere, NIU blew out visiting Bowling Green (88-47) and Kent State held off Western Michigan (55-51).
While Ohio goes to CMU on Saturday, Kent State travels to Buffalo in another critical matchup. Miami will be at Bowling Green (7-13, 0-9 MAC).
“If there’s space, I’m shooting it.” — Ohio freshman Erica Johnson on her confidence from long range after hitting 4 of 6 from 3 against Akron.
Ohio 92, Akron 70
AKRON 70 (12-8, 3-6 MAC)
Haliegh Reinohel 2 1-2 6, Caitlin Vari 4 0-0 8, Shaunay Edmonds 5 0-0 11, Megan Sefcik 5 4-4 17, Shayna Harmon 1 0-0 3, Kendall Miller 0 0-0 0, Kynnedy Azubike 0 0-2 0, Alyssa Clay 9 2-4 25, Colleen Neitzel 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 26 7-12 70; 3-point goals — 11-21 (Clay 5-6, Sefcik 3-7, Harmon 1-1, Reinoehl 1-3, Edmonds 1-3, Neitzel 0-1).
OHIO 92 (19-2, 8-2 MAC)
Erica Johnson 7 4-6 22, Gabby Burris 5 8-10 21, Cece Hooks 7 0-0 15, Amani Burke 6 1-1 16, Dominique Doseck 2 2-2 8, Olivia Bower 0 1-2 1, Deesh Beck 1 0-0 2, Kaylee Bambule 1 0-0 3, Kendall Jessing 2 0-2 4, Hunter Rogan 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 31 16-23 92; 3-point goals — 14-33 (Johnson 4-6, Burris 3-5, Burke 3-6, Doseck 2-6, Bambule 1-2, Hooks 1-5, Bower 0-2, Beck 0-1).
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Akron 26-56 (.464), 3-point goals 11-21 (.524); Ohio 31-68 (.456), 3-point goals 14-33 (.424); Free throws — Akron 7-12 (.583); Ohio 16-23 (.696); Rebounds — Akron 31/4 offensive (Reinoehl 7), Ohio 42/14 offensive (Johnson 11); Assists — Akron 14 (Edmonds 8), Ohio 19 (Johnson/Burke 5); Steals — Akron 6 (Sefcik 3), Ohio 11 (Johnson/Burke/Bambule 2); Blocks — Akron 4 (Vari 2), Ohio 2 (Burke 2); Turnovers — Akron 17, Ohio 12; Personal fouls — Akron 14, Ohio 15; Attendance — 379; Technical fouls — None.