Athens, OH -- The tag team in Chatrice White & Cierra Rice came out strong late in the second quarter and remained dominant for Illinois throughout the rest of the game. Accompanied with turnovers, the Ohio Bobcats took their first loss of the season to the Illinois Fighting Illini, 62-53.
Ohio tried to come back in the final 10 minutes, but turnovers proved to be fatal for the Bobcats, allowing Illinois' White to continue to pound down low with a double-double with 22 points and 13 boards.
There were plenty of opportunities for Ohio to make a comeback in the fourth quarter, but fouls and 13 turnovers allowed Illinois to visit the free throw line to widen the lead to nine and eventually get the win
The ‘Cats came out strong with a 7-0 early first quarter lead against Illinois. Kiyanna Black started off the quarter with upbeat and a fast style of play, putting the ‘Cats on the board first. Illinois, on the other hand, could not find the bottom of the net.
They couldn't get the second and third shots, because it was all Bobcats underneath the net. Ohio outrebounded Illinois early in the game. If the Illini did get the second shot, it would be swatted out of their hands. Ohio had a total of seven blocks on the afternoon going into the second with a 23-11 lead.
The second quarter again proved to be the same for the ‘Cats early. Ohio remained dominant from the perimeter, shooting 25% for the arc. Leading the ‘Cats from the three point line was Black, shooting 30% with 18 total points.
However, foul trouble did plague Ohio, giving Illinois the opportunity to narrow the gap and go on an 11-0 run. Ohio went scoreless for the final six and a half minutes in the quarter, but Ohio led Illinois 28-26 going into the locker room.
That rest proved to help the Illinois as they gained their first lead 32-31 at the 4:30 mark in the 3rd quarter. Multiple lead changes would put Illinois up 42-38 going into the final 10 minutes. Consistent travel calls and poor shots for Ohio gave Illinois the opportunity to take the lead.
Ohio didn't have a powerful quarter like the first quarter for the rest of the game. A lackluster defensive presence and sloppy fundamentals is what hurt the ‘Cats, especially three back-to-back turnovers in the fourth quarter.
The energy that Ohio entered the game with disappeared quickly. The fast-paced motion offense couldn't produce much after the stellar first quarter. Illinois was also able to find their offensive game late in the game, and Ohio couldn't shut them down. Emotions affected the Bobcats drastically with poor foul choices and urgency to throw up a shot instead of reading what the defense gave them.
Ohio will look to get back their winning ways when they head up to Akron for the Akron Classic to take on the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles on Nov. 20 at 1:00 pm EST. Illinois will look to stay perfect when they host the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks on Nov. 21 at 2:00 pm CST.