ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio Women's Basketball won its season opener by erasing a second-half deficit and earning a 63-56 win over Cleveland State on Tuesday evening. Shavon Robinson, Mariah Byard and Tina Fisher all reached double figures as the Bobcats won their second straight home opener and first season opener since 2008.
Robinson led Ohio with 15 points and seven rebounds while Byard chipped in with 13 points, three assists and three steals. Fisher rounded out the trio with 10 points and led the squad with a career-high nine rebounds. Lexie Baldwin added seven points and seven rebounds in her collegiate debut.
Ohio stifled the Viking transition game, finishing with a 13-0 edge in fast break points, and also held the upper hand at the free-throw line, 18-7. Shalonda Winton was difficult to deal with down low as she led Cleveland State with 24 points and 15 rebounds. However, she turned the ball over 10 times.
A 12-0 run by the `Cats gave them their first lead at 18-11 and a three-pointer by Ashley Fowler eventually stretched the lead to double figures at 23-13. However, Cleveland State closed the half on an 11-2 run and took a 30-29 lead into the lockers.
Despite not scoring a field goal over the final 8:06 of the first half, Ohio found itself only down one thanks in large part to an 11-0 edge at the free-throw line. The Viking offense clicked at the beginning and end of the half, helping them to a 48 percent clip from the field. The Bobcats, who struggled down the stretch, shot just 35 percent.
Robinson led the Green and White with eight points and four rebounds in the first period and Fisher added six points on a field goal and four free throws.
Ohio's offensive struggles continued in the beginning of the second half as it went another 3:34 before scoring its first field goal, a corner three from Byard. Fortunately, CSU's lead was only one possession at the first media timeout, 35-32, due to solid Bobcat defense.
After another Byard bucket cut the deficit to one, the visitors went on a 6-0 run to gain some breathing room at 41-34. However, the resilient Bobcats knotted the score on a bucket by Baldwin, capping a 7-0 run at the 10:25 mark.
On the next possession, Robinson converted a layup in traffic to give Ohio its first lead of the second half. The run eventually turned into a 14-1 push in favor of the Bobcats, forcing a CSU timeout with eight minutes remaining and the scoreboard showing 48-42, Ohio.
With the crowd at a fever pitch, a fastbreak layup by Fisher capped a 7-0 run and pushed the Bobcat margin back into double figures at 58-48 with a little over three minutes showing on the clock. Cleveland State made things interesting with a 7-0 run, cutting the deficit to three on a Cori Coleman layup with 1:21 still remaining.
However, the Vikings (1-1) could get no closer as Ohio earned the victory in its season opener. The `Cats shot 52 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes and limited CSU to 33 percent shooting, almost reversing the team's percentages from the first half.
Ohio now travels to Minneapolis for the Subway Classic held at the University of Minnesota. The Bobcats play the host Golden Gophers at 1 p.m. on Saturday to start the tournament. Depending on the result, Ohio will then play UNLV or Maine in either the consolation game (noon) or championship (2 p.m.) on Sunday.