Updated Thu, Feb 13, 2014 1:52 pm
One bad pass was all that it took to derail Ohio in its 82-76 loss to Toledo at Savage Arena Wednesday.
Ohio had erased a six-point halftime deficit and had taken a 57-56 lead and with 9:56 left in the game, Nick Kellogg turned and threw a pass to an open Jon Smith. The only problem with the pass was that Smith wasn’t looking at Kellogg, and the ball bounced off Smith’s head and into the hands of Toledo’s Rian Pearson. Pearson raced down court, finished an and-one layup and converted the free throw. The play sparked Pearson and gave Toledo the momentum.
Pearson finished with a game-high 29 points, with 16 of those 29 points coming after Ohio’s passing miscue. The 6-foot-4 guard picked up the slack from Justin Drummond’s absence. Drummond was suspended for the game due to a DUI arrest.
“I knew this game was a huge game,” Pearson said. “I just locked in and got my teammates focused.”
Ohio was also without a key player Wednesday night. Starting forward T.J. Hall sat out the contest due to an academic issue, forcing Travis Wilkins into the starting lineup.
Wilkins performed well, scoring 17 points on 5 of 11 shooting from 3-point range. Defensively, however, Pearson took advantage of Wilkins when Ohio was in a man-to-man defense.
Ohio played a 2-3 zone for the majority of the game and forced Toledo to take outside shots. The Rockets only connected on 6 of 17 3-point attempts in the game.
It is more difficult to rebound in a zone defense, though. In man-to-man, a defender can simply turn and box out the player he is guarding. In a zone, every defender must make a concerted effort to find a man and box him out because each player is guarding an area on the floor instead of just one player.
Toledo took advantage of those gaps in the Bobcat defense to the tune of 16 offensive rebounds and 18 second chance points.
“You can’t win these games if you give up 16 offensive rebounds,” Coach Christian explained. “Their will to win was greater than ours tonight.”
Following the Pearson onslaught, Ohio began pressing on offense. The Bobcats tried to force passes to players that weren’t open, resulting in plenty of deflections by Toledo. The poor passing and Toledo’s defensive activity knocked Ohio out of the offensive rhythm it opened the second half with.
Ohio opened the second half by hitting three of its first four 3-point attempts after going 2-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first half. Nathan Boothe kept Ohio from pulling away by scoring six straight points and eight of Toledo’s first ten points of the half.
Ohio played well for the overwhelming majority of the game, hanging with a Toledo squad that is undefeated at home this season. Going forward, Ohio will need the type of effort it put forward Wednesday night. The Bobcats have the talent to compete with every team in the MAC. They just need to do the little things, like catching passes and rebounding, because sometimes, the little things are what decide games.
The Bobcats return to the hardwood on Saturday for a crucial conference matchup on the road against the Buffalo Bulls.