The very surprising Ohio Bobcats

Ohio University, Kent State’s Saturday night opponent, is having the kind of season the Flashes dreamed of.

Last year the Bobcats tied Kent State and Miami for dthe worst record in the MAC at 4-14. They split with the Flashes and had an overall record of 9-21. Kent State’s record was 7-23.

And now here is Ohio with the best record in the MAC — 17-3 record, 8-1 in the conference. Their RPI is the highest of any MAC team — 48th in the country.

How did the Bobcats do it?

Start with a coach who has turned around programs before.

Bob Boldon, who is in his second year in Athens, was an assistant to Akron’s Jodi Kest as she built a traditionally weak team into one of the MAC’s best.

His first head coaching job was at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, a Dividion school that was 1-15 the year before he arrived. His teams finished third in the Gulf South both years he was there.

Before he went to Ohio, he was head coach at Youngstown State, a team that was 0-30 the year before he arrived. Three years later, Boldon’s team was 23-10 and won a first-round WNIT game. He was Horizon League Coach of the Year.

Boldon had more to work with than Kent State’s Danny O’Banion had in her first years here. Junior guard Kiyanna Black was All-MAC Honorable Mention last season and a preseason All-NMAC second team this season. Sophomore guard Quiera Lampkins, who was recruited by previous coach Semeka Randall, was on the MAC All-Freshman team a year ago. Current starters Mariah Byard, Kat Yelle and Lexie Baldwin also were recruited by Randall. Yelle missed most of last year with an injury.

(Melanee Stubbs, KSU’s fifth leading scorer, is the only player on the KSU roster recruited by O’Banion’s predecessor, Bob Lindsay.)

Boldon has added Michigan State transfer Mariah Harris and freshman Kelly Karlis, n all-state high school forward in Illinois.

The Bobcats run a fast-moving offensive that emphasizes three-point shooting. They lead the MAC in three-point baskets per game (9.3) and three-point field-goal percentage (34.1). Black, who averages 15.6 points per game, leads the MAC and is sixth in the nation with 3.1 three-pointers per game.

KSU is last in the MAC in three-point field-goal defensive percentage.

Ohio also leads the MAC in turnover margin (+5.4), bad news for Kent State, which commits more turnovers than any MAC team. Thirteen turnovers in the first half led to 19 points for Eastern Michigan in KSU’s 70-53 loss Wednesday. The Flashes made only five turnovers in the second half and played EMU even.

OU also is the best defensive team in the make in terms of defensive field goal percentage (34.1). Kent State freshman forward Jordan Korinek, who had averaged 13 points a game for the previous six games, didn’t play the second half against Eastern with an undisclosed injury. O’Banion said she traveled with the team to Ohio, but it’s not clear whether she’ll play Saturday.

Kent State’s record is 3-17, 1-8 in the MAC — the reverse of OU’s.

The game starts at 7, with audio on Golden Flash iHeart Radio starting at 6:50. You can get video and live statistics through the OU website.

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