With Starters’ Statuses Unknown, Bobcats Welcome MAC-Leading Western Michigan

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Things won’t get any easier for Ohio when it welcomes MAC-leading Western Michigan to the Convo Wednesday.

Ohio, who is currently in the most challenging five-game stretch of its season, could be facing the Broncos without Stevie Taylor and T.J. Hall. Taylor is still uncertain with the calf contusion he suffered against Toledo, and Hall suffered what Coach Christian described as a hamstring or Achilles injury in Ohio’s comeback win over Buffalo.

Javarez “Bean” Willis performed well in Taylor’s absence against Buffalo, finishing the game with nine points, five assists and four rebounds. Freshman forward Antonio Campbell also stepped up against the Bulls. In addition to the six rebounds that he pulled down, Campbell scored six points, including the last four points and the eventual game-winning layup for the Bobcats.

While several players stepped up offensively in Ohio’s last game, the Bobcats will need to sure up their defense against Western Michigan, as it was their weakness the last time the two teams met.

The Broncos hung 90 points on the Bobcats in their Feb. 5 matchup. A large part of Western Michigan’s gaudy offensive numbers was Ohio’s stagnant play on defense. Rather than rotating over and playing defense with their feet, the Bobcats resorted to simply reaching for and swatting at the ball, which resulted in 28 fouls for Ohio.

Western Michigan went to the charity stripe 35 times and made 26 of those attempts in the last game against Ohio. Austin Richie took advantage of the lazy defense by Ohio and went to the line nine times. Richie made all nine attempts and scored a game-high 22 points.

Ohio’s slow defense also gave Western Michigan plenty of open looks, which the Broncos were happily obliged to knock down. The Broncos shot a blisteringly hot 59.6 percent from the floor and 61.5 percent from 3-point range in the game.

The focus defensively will once again be on David Brown and Shayne Whittington. Brown, the MAC’s leading scorer, and Whittington form a formidable one-two punch with Brown playing from the perimeter and the 6-foot-11 245 lb. Whittington scoring inside.

Offensively, Ohio will look to continue its solid play from its last few games. The Bobcats have shot 48.9 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from deep in their last three contests. They’ve also received major contributions from role players in those games.

In addition to the elevated play of Willis and Campbell, the Bobcats have also seen Travis Wilkins step up. The senior averaged 15.3 points per game while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor in his last three games. With the statuses of Taylor and Hall uncertain for the second straight game, Ohio will once again look for other players to fill their roles, especially with the MAC-leading Western Michigan Broncos in town.