Updated Sat, Jan 18, 2014 10:40 pm
It seemed like a case of déjà vu for Ohio in its 65-46 win over Northern Illinois Saturday, as the team once again played poorly in the first half but turned it around in the second half.
In what’s becoming a disturbing trend for Ohio, the Bobcats got off to another slow offensive start against Northern Illinois. They made sloppy passes that got deflected by Northern Illinois defenders. The Huskies pestered Ohio throughout the first half and forced the Bobcats into turning the ball over nine times.
The inability to move and take care of the ball severely hampered Ohio’s offense in the first half and prevented the Bobcats from getting into any kind of rhythm on offense. Ohio shot the ball well, going 10-of-20 from the field.
Ohio’s offense may have been in disarray in the first half, but its defense certainly was not. Ohio held Northern Illinois to 8-of-24 shooting from the field. Ohio forced the Huskies into taking difficult, contested shots, but the Bobcats failed to collect the misses. Northern Illinois had nine offensive rebounds in the first half. The second chance opportunities kept the Huskies in the lead.
Ohio’s first half struggles are a reason for concern going forward, but the play of its bench and its second half resiliency are reasons to be encouraged. The bench kept Ohio alive in the first half. Antonio Campbell entered the game and immediately had an impact by collecting a Stevie Taylor miss and putting it back in.
Campbell’s lay in momentarily sparked Ohio, as a stop on the next defensive possession led to an open Nick Kellogg 3-pointer that cut Northern Illinois’s lead to 14-12.
Javarez “Bean” Willis gave Ohio a lift as well. He nailed a transition 3-pointer to draw Ohio within two. Then on the next possession, he found a wide open Jon Smith for a dunk to tie the game at 21-21. Willis poured in two more 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 9 points in the game.
Northern Illinois reclaimed the lead, though, and went into halftime up 24-23.
Ohio was a completely different team in the second half. It controlled the pace, attacked the rim and took care of the ball. Ohio started the half in good fashion with a 17-4 run fueled by Stevie Taylor and T.J. Hall.
Taylor found the gap Northern Illinois’s defense for a layup to open the second half. Then Hall drained a 3-pointer several possessions later. After another Taylor layup and a Hall and-1, it was clear that Ohio was ready to play in the second half.
Taylor finished with 7 points, and Hall had 8 points for the game.
The Bobcats’ defensive intensity from the first half carried over into the second half, as they only gave up 22 points after halftime. In the second half, however, Ohio controlled the pace of the game because it did not allow Northern Illinois multiple opportunities on each possession.
With Ohio pushing the ball after stops, the cracks in Northern Illinois’ defense became apparent, giving the Bobcats open shots. The ‘Cats got the ball inside to Maurice Ndour often in the second half, and the Senegal native drew fouls from Huskies defenders. Ndour finished the game with 10 points and 8 rebounds.
Nick Kellogg came out firing in the second half, draining three 3-pointers in the second half on his way to a team-high 16 points.
Four games into the Mid-American Conference portion of the schedule, it’s clear that Ohio is a second half team. It struggled mightily in the first half against Kent State, Akron and Ball State in addition to Northern Illinois. It’s a good thing for the Bobcats that they respond to adversity so well and play up to its potential in the second half of game.
The tendency to be a second half team could hurt the Bobcats, though. Against the top teams in the conference, Ohio needs to put together a complete game. Otherwise, it will find itself on the losing end of those games much like it did against Akron.
Ohio’s next game comes against Bowling Green (7-9, 1-2) at home on Wednesday.