Ohio Men’s Basketball Wins Big In Home Opener

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Coming into the season it was common to think that Ohio basketball would go as Maurice Ndour goes. Just one game into the season, it was pair of freshmen that paced Ohio to its 73-47 win over Appalachian State Saturday.

With Bean Willis serving a one game suspension for playing in a non-NCAA sanctioned event over the summer, Ohio started two freshmen in Ryan Taylor and Mike Laster. Neither was daunted by the task.

“Mike is a tough kind that plays with a great motor,” head coach Saul Phillips said. “That was really strong day out of him period.”

Laster showed off his athleticism on a pair of baseline drives. His most impressive moment came in the first half when he jumped a pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup. He finished with seven points and as impressive as he was, his freshman running-mate stole the show.

Taylor, who was forced to occasionally run the point in Willis’ absence, finished the day with a game-high 21 points to go along with four assists. The freshman guard used his length and athleticism to back down defenders and sink several jump hooks. Taylor also demonstrated the versatility of his game by sinking a contested pull-up jumper and three 3-pointers as well.

In addition to the offensive showcase that Taylor put on, he also shut down his defensive assignment, holding Frank Eaves to 2 of 12 shooting and only six points.

“Of debuts in the Convo for a freshman, who’s done better?” Phillips said rhetorically. “He defended their best player, and he played a position he’s never played before at times.”

After a somewhat inconsistent first half, Ohio turned up the defensive intensity and opened up the second half on a 19-4 run.

Ndour ignited the run by scoring the Bobcats’ first five points on a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer. Despite having some good looks at the basket, he simply could not get them to fall for most of the game. At times he struggled from the field, but the senior forward was still active on the defensive end and on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking two shots to go along with his 12 points.

“Today I just came out trying to be aggressive, trying to set the tone early for the team, and they responded well,” Ndours said. “I was just happy to see them play the way they did today,”

The key for Ohio during the run was its defense. The Bobcats swarmed the ball and contested shots much more actively and intensely than they did in their scrimmage win over Marietta, as Phillips’ squad forced the Mountaineers into 12 turnovers. They also kept Appalachian State forward Tommy Spagnolo from getting comfortable down low.

Because of the defensive pressure and length of the Bobcats, Appalachian State was unable to get off many open looks.

The Mountaineers, who are an offensively challenged team to begin with, were without their top scorer from last season, Tab Hamilton, due to an indefinite suspension for violating team rules.

In addition to Taylor’s and Ndour’s strong performances, sophomore forward Antonio Campbell picked up where he left off from the 2013-14 season, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds off the bench.