Ohio Enters Bowling Green In Must-Win Situation

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A week ago Ohio (19-10, 9-7) was riding high after defeating Akron on the road and capturing control of its own destiny. With four games remaining, Ohio simply had to win out to earn the fourth seed and the bye that comes with it.

However, the Bobcats dropped both of their contests last week, allowing Akron to leapfrog them in the Mid-American Conference standings. Now Ohio has to win its two final games and receive some help from Buffalo or Kent State, Akron’s final opponents, to grab the sought-after fourth seed.

The first of Ohio’s final two games comes at Bowling Green Tuesday. Despite a 12-17 (6-10 MAC) record, the Falcons are a difficult team to beat, which Ohio found out the hard way on Jan. 22. Bowling Green defeated Ohio 58-56.

The biggest challenge for Ohio in that game and in this upcoming one as well was handling the Falcons’ 2-3 zone. In the first matchup, Ohio only shot 27 percent from 3-point range, and a large reason for this was Ohio’s poor ball movement.

The Bobcats simply swung the ball from side to side without getting the ball in the high post. Had they gotten the ball into the high post and in the middle of the zone, they would have forced the defense to collapse, leaving shooters on the wing and a big man in the short corner open.

In order for Ohio to be successful against the zone, it will need Maurice Ndour to be more aggressive when he gets the ball in the high post. When Ndour got the ball in the high post, he either passed it out to a wing or down low to another big man on the baseline. The junior forward had plenty of options, though. He could have turned and faced the basket and attacked the basket, or he could have taken the open jump shot at the elbow, which he is more than capable of making.

Ohio could use a bounce-back game from the junior forward. In the team’s last two games, he only averaged six points per game while shooting only 20 percent from the field.

Another area for the Bobcats that could use improvement is rebounding. In its loss to Buffalo, Ohio surrendered 14 offensive rebounds. The Falcons had some success on the boards against Ohio in the teams’ first meeting, ripping down 13 offensive rebounds.

With forward Richaun Holmes and center Cameron Black in Bowling Green’s frontcourt, Ohio will need to make crashing the boards a priority. Holmes, one of the conference’s top forwards, averages 13.5 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-10 Black also averages 7.7 boards a game.

Now that Ohio has lost two straight, the final two games have become even more important. Even if Ohio does not get the fourth seed in the MAC Tournament, it does not want to head into the postseason on a bad note after starting the season so strongly.