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The Ohio Bobcats’ inconsistent play finally caught up to them Wednesday, as they fell to the Western Michigan Broncos 83-73.
Ohio had made it a habit of falling behind by double digits then making a second half comeback, doing it seven times in its last 16 games. The Bobcats could not dig themselves out of the hole they dug themselves into against the Broncos, though.
Every time Ohio had a chance to knife into Western Michigan’s lead and gain some momentum, the Bobcats allowed the Broncos to pull away thanks to their lazy defense and rebounding.
“The effort level never picked up,” head coach Jim Christian explained. “We never played hard.”
Western Michigan shot an even 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. Most of the looks that the Broncos got were wide open and just like the first time these two teams met, Ohio was slow on defense.
Ohio noticeably struggled against ball screens Wednesday night. The big man guarding the screener would come out and hedge on the screen, but often times, he would rotate back to his man too slowly, leaving the screener open for a back door layup.
Connar Tava and Shayne Whittington benefited from those struggles. Tava finished with 18 points in the game, and Whittington had 11 points to go along with his 11 rebounds. David Brown led all scorers with 23 points Wednesday night.
Even if Ohio forced a Western Michigan miss, it couldn’t close out the possession and corral the rebound. The Broncos were simply more active than the Bobcats on the boards, pulling down 14 offensive rebounds. Western Michigan then capitalized on those opportunities by scoring 27 second chance points.
“They beat us to every ball.” Christian noted. “They were going into the glass at will.”
Despite the overall poor play from Ohio, it still hung with the Mid American Conference-leading Western Michigan. After falling behind by 13, Ohio held the Broncos scoreless for five minutes to close the first half, but the Bobcats could only come as close as six points (31-25).
With 0:10 left in the first half, Ohio had a three on one opportunity with Javarez “Bean” Willis bringing the ball up and Nick Kellogg and Travis Wilkins flanking him on either side. Rather than attack the hoop and get an easy look to make it a one possession game, Ohio settled for a transition 3-point attempt from Kellogg that went begging.
“As poorly as we played in the first half, which we couldn’t have played any worse, we were down six points.” Christian said. “I could just see the guys the whole facial expression, body language of the guys, they just didn’t play with the energy they needed to play with to even attempt to win this basketball game tonight.”
The problem, though, is that Ohio never corrected its issues in the second half. The team continued to play slowly on defense, and it continued to play carelessly with the ball on offense. The Bobcats turned the ball over 17 times against Western, which resulted in 23 points off turnovers for the Broncos.
Stevie Taylor played for the first time since going down against Toledo, but the junior point guard only finished with five points due to a fracture in his leg. The fracture is in a non-weight-bearing bone, so going forward, it will be a pain tolerance issue.
The team played noticeably better when Taylor was in at point guard and ball movement was crisper. The Bobcats got better looks.
One of the lone bright spots for Ohio was forward Maurice Ndour who had 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The team played well when it played through him. However, sloppy passing and poor shot selection prevented the offense from ever getting into a rhythm.
Ohio’s next game against comes at Akron on Saturday, so the Bobcats will have to find the energy that suddenly escaped them Wednesday night to compete with the Zips.