Men’s Basketball: Ohio Flexed Its Smaller Muscles In Third-Round Win

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The South Florida Bulls front court players were as big, thick, athletic and long as their listed height and weights hinted they would be.

Augustus Gilchrist (6-foot-10, 241 pounds), Ron Anderson, Jr. (6-foot-8, 237 pounds) and Hugh Robertson (6-foot-6, 200 pounds) looked like the MonStars on the floor Sunday.

Ohio's leading scorer Walter Offutt (21 points) admitted that coming into the game against the Bulls, Ohio would be at a disadvantage in the paint.

"We felt like they had an advantage down low. We knew we had to play hard inside and compete on every possession," Offutt said.

In Ohio's 62-56 win over South Florida, nearly every rebound that Ohio secured, 25 in total, was hard fought. If the game is considered the war, every rebound was another battle en route to victory. Possibly no rebound was bigger in the 'Cats win than Jon Smith's defensive rebound with 3:56 remaining between Ohio from St. Louis. Smith had three rebounds in the game, but that board and kick to Dj Cooper resulted in a foul, two made free throws, and a 54-46 lead with 3:28 to go.

"They remind me of Marshall, how long they are, how athletic they are," Smith said, about the rebounding category. "It was a battle out there…We really wanted this, we wanted to go to the Sweet 16, we really wanted to represent the MAC and we did that."

Ohio head coach John Groce also entered Sunday's #12 vs. #13 matchup knowing his "bigs" were not as big as the South Florida's interior players.

"We knew it was going to be a big challenge," Groce said after the win. "I felt like if we could get 65 percent (of defensive rebounds) back, that that was going to be a huge, huge deal, and we ended up 18 for 28. I'll let you do the math."

Getting 65 percent back on the defensive glass is low for a normal game. If that was Groce's target percentage before the game, that shows you how much he respected the Bulls on the glass.

Ohio's 18 of 28 rebounds were right on Groce's hope or prediction (64.28%), but were out rebounded 33-25 on the glass in its 62-56 victory. Normally, Groce would not be pleased with a minus-8 differential on the glass, but the effort, fight and toughness it took to come down with each every board may have been the highest all season.

"It was warfare on the glass. They're extremely physical. I thought they were really relentless," Groce added.

If it truly was "warfare" on the glass, Ohio won a war of attrition. The Bobcats didn't win the rebounding battle, they lost the points in the paint fight 32-12 and only got seven offensive rebounds in 30 attempts, but, when it counted most, the undersized Bobcats stood tallest. Ohio won the battle of the boards seven to six in the final eight minutes and is moving on to the Sweet 16 in St. Louis.