ATHENS, Ohio - On a day honoring seniors Tenishia Benson and Alesia Howard, the Ohio Women's Basketball team picked up its 12th victory of the season Saturday afternoon with a 51-45 win over Kent State. Ohio's defense was tenacious throughout the victory, forcing Kent State into 32 turnovers and collecting 16 steals.
The win was an important one for Ohio (12-15, 5-8 Mid-American Conference), putting the Bobcats into eighth place for the time being. With the top four seeds receiving a bye in the first round of the conference tournament, seeds 5-8 host first-round games on March 3.
Shavon Robinson (Canton, Ohio) led all scorers with 16 points. She was joined in double figures by Benson, who scored 11 and was just one rebound shy of a double-double. Tina Fisher (Cottage Grove, Minn.) collected a career high five steals in the victory and also grabbed six boards. Leslie Schaefer led the way for Kent State, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Ohio had difficulty connecting on field goals in the second half, going 4-of-27 (14.8 percent). The `Cats were able to balance this out with solid free-throw shooting, as they went 14-of-20 in the second half from the line.
Both teams traded baskets early to start the game, but Robinson's fastbreak layup and a three from Erin Bailes (Huntington, W. Va.) gave the `Cats an 11-6 advantage with 10:53 to play in the first half. Ohio picked up the scoring pace soon after as Bailes and Robinson both connected on a pair of free throws and freshman Mariah Byard (Mannington, W. Va.) drilled a three-pointer to increase Ohio's lead to 18-8 with just over nine minutes remaining.
The Golden Flashes would battle back with a 6-0 run, however, to cut Ohio's lead to 18-14 at the 6:46 mark. Robinson answered the call with a long jumper and Symone Lyles (Silver Spring, Md.) hit a three-pointer to help the Bobcats re-extend their lead to 25-16. Ohio maintained good defensive pressure late and headed into the locker room leading by 11 (29-18), its largest lead of the first half.
Benson and Robinson topped the score sheet for Ohio in the first half with six points apiece while Lyles and Byard both had five. The Bobcats shot 10-for-31 (32.3%) overall in the first half and led Kent State in second-chance points (8-0) and bench points (12-6). Ohio also found success from the free throw line in the first half, going 100 percent (6-for-6), and out-rebounded the Golden Flashes 20-16.
Kent State (5-18, 4-9 MAC) opened up the second-half scoring with a 5-0 run to narrow Ohio's lead to 29-23 early on. The Golden Flashes would draw within as close as four, but Robinson responded with a steal and layup combination to put the Cats up 34-28 with 12:01 to play, making her the first Bobcat to hit double figures with 11 points.
Kent State pulled within three points twice in the final eight minutes of the second half, but Ohio was able to stifle any possible Golden Flashes' momentum by converting on free throws and keeping up solid defensive pressure. Facing a 51-40 deficit, Kent State scored five quick points at the end of the game to pull within six at 51-45. This proved to be the final scoring of the contest.
The Bobcats return to action this Wednesday, Feb. 22 to host their final regular-season home game as they welcome Bowling Green to the Convocation Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.