Men’s Basketball: In Demolition, Ohio Crushes Akron

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The Ohio Bobcats said goodbye to the Convocation Center for the season as they took down the Akron Zips 85-61 Sunday night.

The outcome was hardly ever in doubt. Akron failed to whittle the lead to less than 22 points in the final 12 minutes. Everything seemed to be going Ohio’s way for the duration of the game. The Bobcats never trailed and at one point led by 33. The ‘Cats delivered blow after blow to the Zips’ defense to slowly and painfully subdue the opponent.

The ‘Cats had four players finish in double-figures with Nick Kellogg leading the way with 17 points. Walter Offutt and Reggie Keely added 14 apiece to the final tally. Each scoring player on Ohio’s team had no less than five points. This is the Bobcats’ third consecutive game in which the team has scored more than 80 points.

“I think our chemistry has been pretty good lately,” Kellogg said. “Any time that’s at the root of [the success] things start to go well for you.”

Good chemistry paired with an electric shooting performance spelled out the story of Sunday’s game. The ‘Cats shot an astounding 57 percent from the field, 43 percent from behind the arc and 84 percent from the free throw line to top it off. It was a shock to the crowd when Ohio missed a shot. The Bobcats shot nearly 70 percent in the second half to place the nail into the Zips’ coffin.

Still, Ohio head coach John Groce says the team can hang its hat on defense. The ‘Cats swarmed the ball in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

“Tonight we got back to playing Ohio defense,” Groce said, “and what’s been our identity all year has been defending and affecting field goal percentage, which we did tonight. And turning people over, which we did tonight.”

Ohio’s post players held Akron’s Zeke Marshall to just four points and six rebounds. Marshall more than quadrupled that output in the last contest with Ohio. Along those lines, all of the Bobcats’ traditional post players – Ivo Baltic, Reggie Keely and Jon Smith – fouled out of the previous meeting. Tonight those three players all avoided that fatal fifth personal. Ohio’s containment of Marshall serves as testimony to the stellar defense. Their play stemmed from the Bobcats’ ability to frustrate the Zips.

“We were as bad mentally tonight as we were physically,” Akron head coach Keith Dambrot said.

The mental game is what Groce says his team will key on for its final two regular season games before the MAC tournament. Although he wants his players to enjoy the win, he says their focus should be on the next game.

“Obviously, we played really well,” said Groce, “and I want them to enjoy that tonight. But when we wake up tomorrow, we’ve got Kent State on Wednesday. We can’t swallow the poison of success.”

Kent State is the first of Ohio’s final two tests of the regular season before the postseason play. The ‘Cats face a quick turnaround after blowing out Akron with two games in just five days. Now holding the tiebreaker for second place in the MAC East, Ohio is still gunning for a first round bye in the conference tournament.