Updated Wed, Jan 16, 2013 5:30 pm
After a 0-2 start in conference play and four losses in five games, the Bobcats look to rebound while dealing with a series of injuries. Dropping its past two games by a total of 64 points to fellow MAC foes, Akron and Buffalo, Ohio will take what remains of its roster to Oxford on Thursday and return home to battle Bowling Green on Sunday.
Injuries have overwhelmed the Bobcats for the past few games and undoubtedly frustrated head coach Semeka Randall, who has been forced to deal with a bizarre form of adversity midway through the season.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Randall explained. “But you try not to feed into it and in a sense, allowing it to be an excuse and tearing us from going out there and trying to win a basketball game and compete, foremost for the university and for those players out there.”
The injury merry-go-round has yet to stop for the Bobcats, as it seems that once one player regains strength, another falls to injury.
Senior guard Shavon Robinson, Ohio’s third-leading scorer and rebounder will miss yet another conference game and has yet to play this calendar year.
Junior guard Erin Bailes will make a return to the rotation after missing the game against Buffalo due to an ankle injury. She participated in practice on Tuesday, but took minor breaks as to not exert too much pressure on her ankle. Randall said Bailes’ role in Thursday’s contest would depend on how Bailes’ ankle feels at game time.
Playing just ten minutes in the game against Buffalo, sophomore guard Mariah Byard suffered an ankle injury that will put her out at least a week, debilitating the strong guard play Ohio saw at the beginning of December.
Along with these key starters being out, Ohio is dealing with an empty bench and recently saw the departure of Kat Yelle for the rest of the season due to injury.
Asked whether or not she has ever coached a team with such a drastic injury problem, Randall responded jokingly, “No, but I guess I have when I played in eighth grade when we played with four players because of people fouling out.”
With such injuries, the Bobcats have added two completely new players to their roster: Laura Mastro, a senior guard whose name might ring familiar for her dominance in field hockey, and Ashley Jordan, who played volleyball for Ohio in her freshman and sophomore year.
Players are also shocked with the injuries that have been occurring, but are looking forward to the weekend without thinking about the misfortune.
“We’re definitely looking to get that big win, because you come out 0-2 and you’re like, ‘Oh, shoot,’” said senior forward Tina Fisher. “We’re shortening the time we’re in practice to keep our bodies fresher. We’re looking to come back, we have a couple injuries, but every team has that. We’re trying to regroup with what we have.”
Fisher seems to have forgone the thought of team injuries, though, and is averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 boards through conference play.
Freshman guard Kiyanna Black has transitioned into a leadership role with ease, leading the team in points and taking a majority of shots for the Bobcats. Yet, she still sees the plagued rotation inhibiting Ohio’s style of play.
“It’s tough,” said Black. “We’re just going day-by-day, doing whatever coach is saying, she has plans. We have to go day-by-day because it’s a tough situation.”
With an away game in Oxford on Thursday evening, Ohio has an uphill battle for the remainder of the weekend, with arguably the top two teams in the MAC on the schedule.
Led by senior guard Courtney Osborn (18.0 ppg), Miami (OH) stands behind one of the best field-goal percentages in the MAC (41.5 percent). Yet, their perimeter shooting is not all that separates the RedHawks from other MAC contenders; Kirsten Olowinski, a senior forward, averages a double-double in the point (11.2 ppg) and rebound category (10.1 rpg).
The RedHawks hold a 9-6 record, with a 1-1 record in the MAC, that includes a recent widespread victory over Western Michigan and a close loss to a sub-par Ball State squad. Ohio and Miami have shared opponents in Eastern Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Cleveland State this season and the Green and White hold a 2-1 record against these opponents to the RedHawks’ 1-2 stance.
On Sunday, the Bobcats return to the Convo to take on Bowling Green, who hold a 1-1 record in the MAC and 10-5 record overall.
Chirssy Steffen and Alexis Rogers average double-digit point figures per game for the Falcons, but it’s the overall balance of Bowling Green that makes them one of the top contenders in the MAC; every player averages over two points per contest, and most are averaging over three points per game in the MAC.
Bowling Green won every game in December, including a landslide victory over No. 14 Dayton, 65-40. Yet, in their last three games, the Falcons have dropped two to UCF and Toledo. Bowling Green stands five games above .500 and holds an impressive 4-1 road record. The Falcons and RedHawks were selected in the preseason to finish second and first in the MAC East, respectively.
Black best explained the mindset for the weekend: “(We have to) play hard and compete. We have five people and no one is going to feel sorry for us. No one is going to go easy on us. We just have to go in and compete.”