Updated Thu, Feb 13, 2014 4:22 pm
After Ohio’s 68-55 loss to Eastern Michigan, head coach Bob Boldon insisted that not one loss stung above the other seven consecutive contests that his squad had dropped. However, Ohio’s 64-62 loss to Toledo deflated a young team that saw a win slip away from its grasp.
Despite amassing a 21-point lead with 17 minutes left to play, Toledo’s offense began clicking on all cylinders. Ana Capotosto and Janelle Reed-Lewis took over the game and led the Rockets on a 21-4 run to make the contest a one-possession ball game.
Ohio’s offense, which had cracked Toledo’s 2-3 zone, suddenly became stagnate as their shot selections became less than ideal. Combine that with a string of Ohio fouls to end the game and the ‘Cats picked up loss No. 3 of their 7-game streak.
Fast-forward nearly three weeks from the second half collapse and Ohio’s desperation for a win has ballooned. In a season that has been heralded as a vast improvement from last year’s campaign, a nearly month-long winless stretch has fatigued and frustrated the young ‘Cats.
Where Ohio has struggled during the streak is closing out second halves of games. With the exception of the Akron game, Ohio has found itself in competitive contests in the second stanza. No matter the opponent’s record, the ‘Cats stuck to their game plan and it treated them well.
To pick up a win on Saturday, Ohio’s key to success will be sticking to the plan. Ohio discovered its identity as a slash and kick style of team that plays tight, on-ball defense. This style of play has yielded success for Ohio, but often times fatigue and cold 3-point shooting deflates Ohio’s confidence, allowing opponents to push their way into the lead.
The motion offense sets the ‘Cats up for success. Quiera Lampkins and Destini Cooper have presented themselves as a legitimate threats to wreak havoc near the hoop. Their contributions will be crucial in case the ‘Cats shoot 27 percent from downtown, like they did in their last matchup against Toledo.
Ohio’s struggles against its cross-state foe is nothing new. The Rockets have won seven consecutive games against the Bobcats, a stretch that goes back to the 2007-08 season.
In the 65th meeting between the two programs, energy levels will also be a variable to watch. The ‘Cats finally got a full week of practice in after playing four games in nine days, including lengthy trips to Central Michigan and Buffalo. The Bobcats traveled around 1,600 miles between those two trips alone.
Toledo also traveled to Miami (OH) and Kent State for conference games last week and has not played in any games thus far.
Two well-rested teams, that have had several days to watch tape and practice, have the potential to create a fast paced matchup that will keep the game competitive well into the second half.