Facing the Mid-American Conference leaders, Cece Hooks and the Ohio Bobcats continued their hot streak.
Hooks scored 29 points, pacing the Bobcats to an 85-70 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes on Wednesday inside the Convocation Center.
Hooks came in averaging 30.4 points over the last five games, and finished just shy of the mark with another big outing.
The senior added nine assists, seven steals and six rebounds while making 12 of 21 shots from the field.
The Bobcats’ fifth win in their last six games improves their record to 10-5 overall, and 8-4 in the MAC.
Kent State suffered its first conference loss, falling to 4-1 in the MAC and 5-3 overall. The Flashes played for the first time since Jan. 9 after dealing with COVID-19 issues within the program.
Ohio played without Erica Johnson, who missed the game due to a knee injury.
Gabby Burris stepped up to help fill the scoring void left by Johnson’s absence. Burris scored 22 points, making 9 of 10 from the foul line in the win. She added five rebounds and three steals.
Jasmine Hale scored 12 points off the bench for Ohio, which only used seven players in the win.
Madi Made tallied nine points and three assists, Caitlyn Kroll had seven points, 10 rebounds and three steals, while Kaylee Bambule had six points.
The game was tied 16-16 after the opening quarter, with Ohio going ahead 40-28 at halftime thanks to a big second quarter.
Ohio appeared to be pulling away, leading 70-56 after Bambule’s 3-pointer with 6:57 to play.
However, Ohio was dealt some adversity when Hooks fouled out with 5:51 left to play after being whistled for a pair of offensive fouls within 17 seconds of each other.
Ohio led just 70-64 when Hooks fouled out, and Kent State cut the deficit to four points on two occasions. The final was at 74-70 after two Hannah Young free throws with 2:43 remaining.
Burris and the Bobcats buckled down from there, as Ohio scored the final 11 points of the game. It started with Burris’ free throws for a 76-70 edge with 2:12 remaining.
Ohio forced a shot clock violation, then Burris made two more free throws.
Burris would make eight free throws in a row, allowing Ohio to comfortably lead 82-70 with 49 seconds to play.
Kroll made a jumper in the lane, then Burris would add one more free throw with a second remaining, as the Bobcats earned a much-needed MAC win.
Katie Shumate led Kent State with 23 points and six rebounds, while Young had 11 points and Casey Santoro 10 points.
Despite Ohio’s recent hot streak, it still sits in a tie for sixth with Central Michigan in the MAC standings.
Kent State (4-1 MAC), Bowling Green (9-3), Buffalo (7-3), Ball State (7-3) and Northern Illinois (7-3) are slightly ahead in what will be a crowded race to the finish.
A critical road game awaits on Saturday, as the Bobcats travel to take on Bowling Green. The game is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.