Updated Mon, Feb 24, 2014 10:54 am
If fans had seen Ohio’s loss to Western Michigan and then watched its 66-50 win against Akron, they would assume that there were two different teams wearing Ohio uniforms in those games.
The team that played slow and lackadaisical defense against Western Michigan was not the team that took the court at James A. Rhodes Arena Saturday night. Instead, the Bobcats were extremely active on both ends of the floor.
“Our team has been resilient all year long,” head coach Jim Christian explained. “This is kind of who we’ve been; when everybody counts us out, we kind of try to, you know, fight our way back in it.”
Ohio double teamed Akron’s big men whenever they got the ball in the low post, and the other three Bobcat defenders rotated over and closed off any open passing lanes. When Akron managed to get shots off, they were difficult looks, as the Zips only shot 26.8 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from the field. Ohio was able to double team so frequently because Akron was without two of its major 3-point threats in Reggie McAdams and Jake Kretzer.
Ohio held Akron scoreless for nearly seven minutes early in the first half, allowing the Bobcats to open up the double-digit lead that they held for the rest of the game. In the midst of Ohio’s 14-0 run, Jon Smith chased down a defensive rebound and forwarded it ahead to Javarez “Bean” Willis, who then served it up for Smith to finish off the break with an alley-oop slam.
For the second straight game against Akron, the Bobcats frustrated forward Demetrius Treadwell. The senior forward finished with 13 points on only 3 of 16 shooting. For the second straight game, Treadwell’s struggles were a result of Jon Smith’s activity on defense. Early in the game, Smith forced Treadwell to settle for mid-range jump shots, which kept Treadwell from getting into a rhythm offensively for the rest of the contest.
Smith’s defensive activity translated to the offensive end of the floor, as he finished the game with 16 points in addition to his 12 rebounds. In the second half, Smith corralled a rebound then pushed the ball and finished an emphatic two-handed slam.
Both Nick Kellogg and Maurice Ndour sat out a significant part of the second half due to foul trouble. With their two leading scorers on the bench, the Bobcats actually increased their lead over the Zips thanks to the play of Smith and Travis Wilkins. Wilkins had 14 points in the game on 5-of-6 shooting.
“Everybody that stepped on the floor for us, right away, a) played with a lot of confidence and b) contributed,” Christian said.
After a disappointing performance against Western Michigan, Willis bounced back and tied his season-high in assists with six to go along with six points and three steals.
Despite Akron’s size inside, Ohio got whatever it wanted in the paint, scoring 38 points in the paint. When Ohio entered the ball to Ndour in the post, the Zips often sent a second defender to force Ndour to give the ball up, which he did. However, when Ndour gave it up, he found the open Bobcat. In the first half, the junior forward found Smith for a reverse two-handed jam. In the second half, Ndour found an open Antonio Campbell for a reverse and-one layup.
Thanks to a balanced attack, Ohio was able to come away with a win and pull even with Akron for fourth in the MAC standings. With several players facing injuries, Ohio certainly wants to finish in the top four to earn a bye to the quarterfinals in the MAC Tournament.
“In February, this is the time of the year the good teams, they start playing for one another, and if you do that good, then good things can happen,” Christian stated.