Belmont Thwarts Ohio 81-62

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The Ohio Bobcats’ road woes continued Saturday as the Belmont Bruins took down the ‘Cats 81-62. The Bruins (22-6, 12-2) shot 51.9 percent from the field on their way to the 19-point victory.

Just when Ohio (20-7, 11-1) thought it had escaped the specter of the road after winning five of its previous six away from home, Belmont brought the ‘Cats crashing back down to Earth. Ohio’s loss in the last of the ESPNU BracketBuster series was its fifth in as many attempts against non-conference opponents on the road this season. The Bobcats have lost by an average of 14.2 points in non-conference road games this season.

“Hopefully, we learn from it,” said head coach Jim Christian. “It’s a good thing it wasn’t a conference game or it would have hurt more.”

Ian Clark, Belmont’s sharpshooting guard, led the team with 18 points despite missing some of the game with a leg injury suffered in the first half. Trevor Noack and J.J. Mann each scored 17 and Kerron Johnson scored 16 for the Bruins. Reggie Keely led Ohio with 12.

T.J. Hall sank an open three to put Ohio on the board at the start, continuing where he left off against Kent State. Hall dropped two of his three treys in the second half against the Golden Flashes to help keep the Bobcats in the game. He made two from beyond the arc against Belmont for six of his 10 points. He also added five rebounds.

Noack used his big body to cause trouble for the ‘Cats early in the game and it was indicative of what was to come. The Bobcats could not fight through his screens and when they did he capitalized on rolls and slips to the basket. Noack nabbed an offensive rebound and nailed the put-back for Belmont’s first points of the game.

Ohio and Belmont held tight for almost 10 minutes, but that was when the Bruins began to pull away. Walter Offutt hit a pair of free throws to bring the score to 13-10 Belmont. Craig Bradshaw, however, then hit a three with 10:35 to go sparking a 28-14 Bruins run to end the half.

Ohio’s help defense lagged behind and Belmont got several open looks throughout the half. During the run, the Bruins hit four three-point baskets helping to keep the lead up and the momentum on their side.

The Bruins, conversely, showed very aggressive defense to get Ohio out of its game. The ‘Cats had trouble penetrating the lane for all 40 minutes. Cooper finally crashed the lane late in the first half and it led to an assist to Keely. Hall followed by tipping in one of Cooper’s misses the following possession. However, Belmont managed to strike right back with seven straight points of its own to put the Bruins up 41-24 at halftime.

“I just think they got up in [Cooper],” said Christian, “and kind of forced him into some certain spots on the floor.”

Ohio came out of the break physical, looking to power its way into the paint it so coveted in the first half. But despite the Bobcats efforts to attack and score, Belmont quickly adjusted and the offense kept coming in bucketfuls for the Bruins. The Bobcats never got closer than nine in the second half, each potential Ohio run being thwarted by cheap fouls or turnovers, the ‘Cats finishing with 21 and 14 in the respective categories.

“Everything,” Hall said in regards to what he wants the team to improve before Akron comes to town. “Hit shots, rebound, play better D. Anything we can think of to get better as a team to play better on Wednesday.”

The loss came at an awkward time for Ohio after the Bobcats took down Eastern Michigan in a rescheduled game Feb. 20. The non-conference contest against Belmont came just four days before the Bobcats dive headfirst back into the conference schedule, Akron next on the bill. The Zips (22-4, 12-0) enter the game leading the Mid-American Conference by one game ahead of Ohio.