Ohio Men’s Basketball Beats Alcorn State, Snaps Two-Game Skid

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Students home for winter break, a 1-6 Alcorn State squad coming to the Convo and an Ohio team that was riding a two-game losing streak looked to make for a disastrous recipe for the Bobcats, but Ohio managed to overcome the potential obstacles and defeat the Braves, 66-55, on Saturday.

Ohio head coach Saul Phillips’ team had yet to put together a complete game. Each time out on the hardwood there had been one or two things preventing the team from completely hitting its stride. That didn’t change Saturday, but Ohio did do enough to get the win, which is invaluable for a team that hadn’t won since Nov. 25.

“We’re gonna have plenty of wins here,” Phillips said. “I want them right now. Make no mistake about it, I’ll take no eye off the future and what we’re trying to build long-term, but long-term doesn’t make you feel any better if you lost.”

With Ryan Taylor sitting the game out due to illness (mononucleosis), Ohio’s offense was not surprisingly disjointed at times. Despite shooting 48 percent from the floor, the Bobcats could not get into an offensive rhythm, as the backcourt struggled for most of the game, going only 6 for 18 in the game.

The frontcourt picked up the slack. Maurice Ndour got off to his best start of the season by going 4 for 7 from the field and scoring nine points in the first half. Ndour continued his effective play in the second half, finishing the game with 20 points and six rebounds on 8 of 15 shooting for what Phillps called Ndour’s “easily most efficient game” this season.

Sophomore forward Antonio Campbell received his first start of the season Saturday, and it was evident why Phillips moved him into the first five. Campbell put together his second straight double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

“It’s never different, coming off the bench or making a start, I think it’s all the same,” Campbell said.

With the Braves on a 10-4 run and trailing just 55-52, Stevie Taylor drove the lane and put up a layup that went begging, but Campbell was there to tip the miss back in. On the following possession, Campbell sealed off his defender inside, giving him position right in front of the rim. When Bean Willis fed it to him, he simply turned and laid it in, giving the Bobcats the 57-52 lead and some momentum.

Then with several stops, an Ndour dunk after his own miss and a handful of free throws, Ohio locked the game up.

After a sluggish start, Ohio found itself trailing Alcorn State 29-27 with about five seconds left in the first half and the Braves inbounding the ball under their basket. The Bobcats got the lift they needed, when Khari Harley chased down the errant inbound pass, raced down court, and drilled a pull-up 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to give Ohio a 30-27 lead.

Willis had been the most consistent scorer on the team entering the game, averaging 18.5 points per game. He simply could not get comfortable in the first 20 minutes, as he went scoreless in the first half after only attempting two shots. Willis’ lone make in the game didn’t come until there was 8:53 left in the second half when the senior guard nailed a corner 3-pointer to cap off a 9-0 run.

Even with Ryan Taylor sitting out against Alcorn State, he will not be out much longer. Phillips explained that before the game Saturday, the team learned that Taylor was actually farther along in his recovery than expected, meaning he will be available for the Bobcats’ upcoming game against Evansville.

Ohio heads out for that game Dec. 18 before going to Hawaii for the Diamondhead Classic.