Updated Tue, Feb 25, 2014 11:44 pm
After securing an impressive road win against Akron and drawing themselves even with the Zips for the fourth seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, Ohio plays host to Buffalo (16-8, 10-4) Wednesday.
The Bulls currently hold the third seed, though a loss to Ohio would catapult the Bobcats ahead of them. Ohio won the first matchup against Buffalo on the road thanks to another comeback effort led by Nick Kellogg and Maurice Ndour, with key baskets coming from Antonio Campbell in the final three minutes of the game.
Ndour and Kellogg each had 17 points in the game. Campbell scored the go-ahead basket on an assist from Ndour to put the Bobcats up 71-70. Then on the next possession for Ohio, Campbell corralled a missed layup from Ndour and put it up and in to give Ohio a 73-70 lead.
In the first matchup, the MAC’s leading scorer Javon McCrea scored 18 points and ripped down 8 rebounds. It’s nearly impossible to stop the 6-foot-7 forward, so the team focused on shutting down Buffalo’s other weapons and slowing down McCrea.
Joshua Freelove, the team’s second leading scorer, had 10 points for the Bulls, but the senior guard only shot 4 of 12 from the field. Ohio once again will look to slow down McCrea and shut down Buffalo’s second and third options.
Ohio will also look for another strong defensive performance from Jon Smith. In the Bobcats’ 66-50 win over Akron, Smith limited Demetrius Treadwell, who plays extremely similar to McCrea, to 13 points on 3 for 16 shooting. Smith was active in the game, grabbing 12 rebounds in addition to his 16 points. In the last meeting between Ohio and Buffalo, Smith had eight points and nine rebounds.
While the Bobcats will only look to limit McCrea, they cannot allow him to get going like he did in his last game when he poured in 31 points against Kent State. Fortunately for the ‘Cats, though, Smith excels in matchups with strong forwards, as he uses his length and athleticism to contest shots and make it difficult for his matchup.
Ohio will also have to shore up the defensive glass, as it has given up an average of 16 offensive rebounds in its last two games. With McCrea, the MAC’s leading rebounder, in Buffalo’s front court, Ohio cannot allow the Bulls second chances.
With the team’s current injury situation, a win against Buffalo and the chance to secure the third seed would go a long way for Ohio. The third seed would give the Bobcats a much coveted bye to the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament. It would also allow Ohio to avoid Western Michigan, who has given Ohio coach Jim Christian’s squad fits this season, until a potential MAC Championship matchup.