23-2 Run Sends Ohio Hoops To Cleveland

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Sometimes all it takes to win a basketball game is one big run, and that’s all it took for Ohio to defeat Ball State Monday night. The Bobcats beat the Cardinals 76-64 to punch their tickets to Cleveland and advance to the second round of the MAC Tournament.

Ohio jumped out to an early double-digit lead thanks to its scorching hot 3-point shooting. The team made seven of its first 10 attempts from behind the arc Monday night. Javarez “Bean” Willis got Ohio going by draining a pull-up 3-pointer on Ohio’s third possession of the game. The 3 from Willis kick-started a 23-2 run that put Ohio in front 25-4 with 12:24 left in the first half. Willis finished the game with 15 points — his third straight game with at least 15. 

Offensively, Ohio got whatever it wanted in the first eight minutes of the game. The Bobcats moved the ball well, keeping Ball State moving on defense and finding the open shots. Ohio recorded assists on seven of the nine baskets in the run, including the triple that moved Nick Kellogg into sole possession of the career 3-point record in the MAC. The ‘Cats recorded 18 assists in the game.

“I told our team before the game, I said, ‘If you really believe in your hear that you can win five games, then you’re gonna show it in the first five minutes,’” coach Jim Christian explained.

After Ohio’s furious run to open the game, Ball State slowly crept back into the game thanks to poor execution from the Bobcats. Ohio began to play too quickly, which resulted in rushed decisions and forced passes. In Ohio’s final 15 possessions of the first half, it went 0-for-11 from the floor and turned the ball over seven times, allowing the Cardinals to outscore Ohio 12-2 to close out the half.

“This time of the year you’ve got to meet people at their competition level, and you’ve got to play smart,” Christian said. “In order for us to win the tournament, we have to try to be the smartest team in the tournament, so there were stretches we did that and there were a lot of stretches we didn’t.”

The second half did not see any large runs like the first half did, as Ohio held its double-digit lead for the entire half. Ball State cut the lead to 62-52 on a pair of Jesse Berry free throws, but that was as close as the Cardinals got. Ohio responded with a quick 5-0 burst to push its lead back to 15 points with a layup from T.J. Hall and a Nick Kellogg 3-pointer. Kellogg finished the game with a team-high 17 points.

Another reason for Ohio’s ability to hold its lead was Antonio Campbell’s strong second half play. The freshman forward scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half. Campbell used his large frame to gain position down low. Then he did a good job of finishing around the rim, going 4-for-7 from the field. Monday was also the third straight game in which Campbell scored. 

“The development of Antonio Campbell, which we all knew was coming, we saw it in practice for the longest time,” Christian noted. “It was just a matter of time until he did it in a game.”

Ohio now moves on to play Miami Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Ohio has beaten the RedHawks twice this season, with the most recent victory coming Saturday.

“Miami plays as hard as anybody in the league,” Christian said. “It’s gonna be war in there. If we meet them at their competition level, then it’s gonna be one heck of a game; if we don’t, then we’re going to be in trouble.”