Ohio coach Bob Boldon has been around plenty of offensive threats while coaching the Bobcats the past eight seasons.
He said he’s never seen anything comparable to what Cece Hooks is doing.
“She’s been really dialed in,” Boldon said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced five games like this.”
Hooks put on another clinic on Saturday, the Akron Zips the victims in an 85-55 Ohio victory inside the Convocation Center.
Hooks needed only three quarters to score 31 points on 13 of 18 shooting. The senior added five rebounds, five assists and three steals in another all-around spectacular outing.
“It was fun,” Hooks said. “We actually had fun today. I think everyone was smiling.”
Hooks is giving Boldon and the Bobcats reason to smile, and opponents reasons to shake their heads. She’s averaging 30.4 points during Ohio’s last five games, and is now averaging 26.4 points per game on the season.
“She did it tonight by not getting to the free throw line, like she usually does,” Boldon said. “Only took 18 shots. Just her efficiently and the tempo that she’s been playing with, she’s been fantastic.”
Hooks has been solid all season, but her run of points started with a road win at Central Michigan on Jan. 16. Always a threat to beat a defender off the dribble, Hooks said she’s tried to play at an even more up-tempo pace.
“I’m already fast, but just constantly play fast the whole game,” she said. “And I think that’s been helping me a lot, and my teammates.”
Akron (4-9, 1-9 Mid-American Conference) played mostly zone defense on Saturday, seemingly trying to defend against Hooks’ drives to the paint.
Hooks showed off another aspect of her game instead, making four consecutive 3-pointers as part of an explosive opening quarter for Ohio.
Erica Johnson canned the first 3-pointer, then Hooks made three in a row from long range — on mostly uncontested attempts — for a 12-2 lead and the Bobcats never lost that advantage.
“It felt pretty good,” Hooks said. “I was comfortable and confident in shooting them.”
Hooks entered the game with only 12 made 3’s on the season, but her fourth make in a row allowed Ohio to lead 25-9.
The Zips were giving Hooks the outside shot, and she responded by knocking them down.
“She’s not a bad shooter, and when the first one goes in we all feel very confident that the next couple will go in,” Boldon said. “She’s a kid that works on it.”
The Bobcats (9-5, 7-4 MAC) were scorching out of the gates overall, making 8 of 11 3-points in just the first quarter to lead Akron 34-20. Johnson and Caitlyn Kroll each made a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers, and the Bobcats finished the game making 12 3’s overall.
“Obviously, things kind of clicked for us early offensively and it looked good,” Boldon said. “Were able to kind of come out of the locker room with the same enthusiasm in the third quarter and take care of business.”
The Zips were able to cut the deficit to single digits at 36-27 in the second quarter after Jordyn Dawson’s field goal, and trailed 46-35 at halftime after holding Ohio to 12 second-quarter points.
Any thoughts of an Akron comeback were quickly put to rest in the third quarter. The Bobcats scored the first 13 points of the frame, leading 59-35 after Gabby Burris’ 3-pointer.
Ohio held Akron scoreless for a stretch of 7 minutes and 42 seconds of game action, eventually using a 19-2 run to lead 65-37 after Hooks scored on consecutive drives.
The final came on a spin move in the paint, as the Zips were also unable to keep Hooks from doing damage in the paint.
“She’s crazy good,” Ohio’s Madi Mace said. “Watching her, being able to play against her, has really helped my game and helped my defense.”
Boldon was visibly upset with Ohio’s defense after surrendering 20 points in the opening quarter, but the Zips were held to just 35 the rest of the way. The Bobcats won the second quarter 22-4, to lead 70-39 going to the fourth.
“We were getting beat a lot on transition,” Hooks said. “We just stopped letting them beat us down in transition. We just locked in on defense and just playing Ohio defense. It wasn’t nothing spectacular.”
The Bobcats crushed Akron on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 53-25.
“That’s crazy,” Mace said. “That’s something we work for every game.”
The only negative on Saturday was a knee injury to Johnson, who had to leave the game in the third quarter. She tried to play at the onset of the fourth, but had to call a timeout five seconds in to take herself out of the game.
Johnson had 12 points and five assists in 20 minutes of action.
“She’s been battling with knee pain all year,” Boldon said. “We usually get through the game before we have to start this, but we’ll see what it’s like and work on it the next two to three days and see if we can get her ready for Wednesday.”
Burris added 16 points and seven rebounds for Ohio, while Kroll had eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Abby Garnett came off the bench to score six points, while Mace and Hunter Rogan each tallied five points.
The win allows Ohio to bounce back from Wednesday’s 69-66 loss at Eastern Michigan. It’s the only defeat the Bobcats have during Hooks’ five-game run.
“That was pretty tough (losing at Eastern Michigan), but we came back the next day at practice and put it all on the floor and just practiced hard,” Hooks said.
A key game in the MAC standings awaits on Wednesday, as Ohio welcomes Kent State to the Convo for a 6 p.m. start.
Kent State is 4-0 in the MAC, but hasn’t played a game since Jan. 9 due to COVID-19. The Flashes have had six consecutive games postponed.
“Who knows?,” Boldon said, when asked if he thought Wednesday’s game would be played. “I don’t know. It’s 50/50. The odds tell you, no we won’t. They haven’t played in three weeks. It seems like we won’t, but you prepare to play and if get to, you take advantage of it and try your best.”
If the game is played, Hooks will try to keep her run going. The Bobcats will need every effort they can get from her, as they sit at seventh in a crowded conference race after Saturday.
“To consistently do it like she’s done it over five (games) is pretty impressive,” Boldon said. “She’ll be challenged to do it again on Wednesday.”
Ohio 85, Akron 55
Akron 20 15 4 16 — 55
Ohio 34 12 24 15 — 85
AKRON (4-9, 1-9 MAC)
Lonasia Brewer 3 0-0 6, Jordyn Dawson 5 5-6 15, Kendall Miller 0 2-2 2, Emma Tecca 0 2-4 2, Gabrielle Brown-Mitchell 0 0-0 0, Colleen Neitzel 4 0-0 10, Alexis Stewart 1 2-2 5, Rachel Martindale 3 2-4 11, Layne Ferrell 2 0-0 4, Molly Neitzel 0 0-0 0, Kate Garry 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 18 13-18 55; 3-point field goals: 6 (Marindale 3, Neitzel 2, Stewart 1)
OHIO 85 (9-5, 7-4 MAC)
Erica Johnson 5 0-0 12, Gabby Burris 6 2-2 16, Cece Hooks 13 1-2 31, Caitlyn Kroll 3 0-0 8, Kaylee Bambule 0 0-0 0, Madi Mace 2 0-0 5, Jasmine hale 1 0-0 2, Abby Garnett 3 0-0 6, Hunter Rogan 2 0-0 5, Alexandra Antonova 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 35 3-4 85; 3-point field goals: 12 (Hooks 4, Johnson, Burris, Kroll 2 apiece, Mace, Rogan 1 apiece)