Note: This recap appears in the Tuesday, Nov. 12 newspaper on Page A6.
For many of Erica Johnson’s teammates, the question wasn’t "if" but "when."
Johnson delivered a firm answer on that front on Sunday afternoon inside the Convocation Center.
Johnson, a sophomore out of Mansfield, posted season-highs of 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists to lead Ohio in an 81-69 victory over visiting American in the Bobcats’ home opener. It was the first recorded triple-double of her college career, and the first in Ohio University women’s basketball history.
“We all knew what she’s capable of doing. She puts in the work. This is just her work ethic paying off,” said Ohio sophomore guard Caitlyn Kroll.
“All the time she’s been in the gym, this is just her showing what she’s been working on. She deserves it.”
Johnson was brilliant from start to finish. She hit 10 of 16 shots from the field, and bagged four 3-pointers. As a team, Ohio had just seven field goals in the game that weren’t set up by an assist — and Johnson was responsible for five of them on an assortment mid-range floaters, jumpers and driving finishes.
Like Kroll, Ohio head coach Bob Boldon wasn’t surprised. In fact, he wondered what took so long.
“I’m kind of surprised this is her first one quite frankly. She’s had to have been close last year,” Boldon said.
“She’s just a really talented kid. She loves playing basketball. She’s smart, she understands the game, and she constantly makes the right play.”
Johnson was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2019, the Sixth Player of the Year in the league last season and earned Third Team All-MAC honors. She was tabbed a Preseason All-MAC East pick prior to the start of this season.
Johnson came close a couple of times a year ago to the triple-double, and logged four double-doubles.
But she blew all of that away on Sunday, and was well on her way to a program-first with 15 points, 12 boards and five assists in the first half alone. Johnson’s triple-double was just the 13th in the history of the MAC, and the first notched by a MAC player since 2016.
“It means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I try to bring what we need to the team…and I think I did a good job of that today. And it came with a dub.”
Ohio (1-1) never completely knocked out American (0-1), but was never threatened terribly either. The Bobcats opened the game by hitting four of their first five shots from 3-point range, shot 71.4 percent in the first quarter, and led 24-12 with about 90 seconds left in the first 10 minutes.
The Eagles scored seven of the last nine points in the first quarter and kept hanging around for the next two quarters.
American had four players in double figures, led by Kaitlyn Marenyi’s 16 points and Emily Fisher’s 15 points and eight assists. And the Eagles closed to within 34-33 late in the first half after Fisher’s driving layup.
But Ohio finished the half with a flourish. Gabby Burris completed a 3-point play inside. Johnson then scored on a running bank off the glass with 45.7 seconds left. Johnson then finished the half with a 3-pointer from the left corner that made it 42-33 at the break.
American never got closer than five points the rest of the way. Ohio never led by less than 12 points after a 6-0 burst early in the fourth — keyed by two Johnson buckets in the paint. The Bobcats never trailed, and held the lead for 39:51 of the 40-minute clock.
The Bobcats weren’t especially sharp on the defensive end — American shot 48 percent overall and played OU to a draw in turnover count — but Ohio successfully rebounded from a road loss at No. 21 Syracuse on Tuesday.
“We just wanted a win honestly,” Kroll said. “We’re going to get this dub today no matter how we have to do it, we’re going to get it.”
The biggest drama in the last five minutes was whether or not Johnson was going to get the triple-double. With members of the OU men’s team in attendance and shouting ‘One more assist!’ down the stretch, Johnson set up Cece Hooks for two layups on a pair of back-door cuts along the baseline to get the honorific.
“I didn’t know if it was a double-double or something, but they were yelling it,” Johnson said. “So I knew something was up.”
Ohio, also, had four players in double figures. Hooks had 15 points on just eight shots. Senior guard Amani Burke added 12 points and five assists of her own. Kroll had 13 points and two steals off the bench.
Ohio wasn’t good enough defensively to blow the game open. But Johnson was good enough to make sure it never felt like it was in doubt either.
“I’m fortunate to have Erica Johnson on my team,” Boldon said. “That’s really the difference in winning and losing at this point.”
Ohio has just four non-conference home games this season, and will play a second straight home game on Wednesday when Marshall (2-0) comes to the Convo for a 7 p.m. start.
Ohio 81, American 69
American 19 14 18 18 — 69
Ohio 26 16 19 20 — 81
AMERICAN (0-1) 69
Morgan Bartner 4 4-6 12, Emily Fisher 6 1-2 15, Jade Edwards 7 1-1 15, Indeya Sanders 4 0-0 9, Kaitlyn Marenyi 5 2-4 16, Lauren Stack 0 0-0 0, Laura Graytok 1 0-0 2, Karla Vres 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 27 8-13 69; 3-point goals — 7-24 (Marenyi 4-10, Fisher 2-4, Sanders 1-4, Edwards 0-3, Graytok 0-1).
OHIO (1-1) 81
Erica Johnson 10 0-1 24, Gabby Burris 3 3-3 9, Cece Hooks 6 3-4 15, Katie Barker 3 0-0 8, Amani Burke 3 3-4 12, Caitlyn Kroll 5 3-4 13, Deesh Beck 0 0-0 0, Maddie Bazelak 0 0-0 0, Peyton Guice 0 0-2 0, Abby Garnett 0 0-0 0, Hunter Rogan 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 30 12-18 81; 3-point goals — 9-24 (Johnson 4-6, Burke 3-7, Barker 2-5, Burris 0-2, Kroll 0-2, Hooks 0-1, Guice 0-1).
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — American 27-56 (.482), 3-point goals 7-24 (.292); Ohio 30-57 (.526), 3-point goals 9-24 (.375); Free throws — American 8-13 (.615); Ohio 12-18 (.667); Rebounds — American 30/6 offensive (Edwards 7), Ohio 34/8 offensive (Johnson 13); Assists — American 18 (Fisher 8), Ohio 23 (Johnson 11); Steals — American 8 (Edwards 3), Ohio 6 (Kroll 2); Blocks — American 3 (Edwards 2), Ohio 2; Turnovers — American 14, Ohio 14; Personal fouls — American 17, Ohio 11; Attendance — 451; Technical fouls — None.