Updated Sun, Nov 10, 2013 1:56 pm
For the second straight year, Ohio will open its season with a celebration in the Convocation Center. After the 2012-13 MAC Regular Season Champions banner has been raised, though, Ohio will have to face a tough Northern Iowa team to start the season.
The Bobcats hosted the Ashland Eagles on Nov. 2 as a tune-up for their matchup with the Panthers Saturday. Ohio received impressive performances from several players in its 66-44 victory over Ashland. Ricardo Johnson went 5-for-6 from the floor, which was good enough for 11 points. Stevie Taylor proved that he is capable of leading the team on his way to compiling 10 points and seven assists.
Junior forward Maurice Ndour made his debut in the green and white and showed off his versatility against Ashland. He made a 3-pointer, blocked a shot and finished off an alley-oop from Johnson. The Bobcats will need another strong showing from Ndour and the rest of the frontcourt against Northern Iowa, though.
Ohio shot 25 3-pointers and made eight of them against Ashland. The Bobcats were able to beat the Eagles, a Division II team, by heaving up 3-pointer after 3-pointer because Ashland was simply overmatched. Against Northern Iowa, however, Ohio will have to attack the basket and work for better shots as the Panthers are a much better team than the Eagles squad that the Bobcats faced in their exhibition game.
Northern Iowa finished 21-15 last season, which was good enough third in the Missouri Valley Conference behind Wichita State and Indiana State. Its season came to an end with a loss against Weber State in the semifinals of the College Invitation Tournament. Last season marked the fifth straight season that Northern Iowa reached the 20-win mark.
The Panthers return an imposing low post presence in junior forward Seth Tuttle. Tuttle averaged 11.4 and 6.6 rebounds last season. He was impressive in both of Northern Iowa’s scrimmages, scoring 21 points in each. The frontcourt may be an issue for Ohio as the Bobcats have length at the forward position, but lack the overall girth that Tuttle and other Panther big men possess.
Northern Iowa also brings back junior guard Deon Mitchell, who lead the team with 3.6 assists per game last season. Mitchell can score as well as he averaged 9.3 points per game last season.
Ohio will definitely have its work cut out for it in its first game of the season Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.