Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics

Defense Takes Center Court for the Bobcats

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The Ohio Men’s Basketball team is 10 days away from their exhibition game against Rio Grande and 17 days away from their opener against Southern University.

During the practice time leading up to the start of the season, Ohio has one goal. Get better defensively.

“Keep working hard, get better defensively and the offense will take care of itself, that’s it” sophomore Jordan Dartis said on what’s on the to-do list.

Last year, Ohio averaged 78.5 points per game. With nearly the entire roster back, offense should not be an issue. The problem was on the other end of the court, where they held the second worst scoring defense (74.8PPG) in the conference.

Where specifically does head coach Saul Phillips want to improve on defense?

“Improve transition. Contest more shots. Improve help-side. Improve screen-and-roll defense,” Phillips said. So basically everywhere.

Despite the questions on defense, Ohio has high expectations for this upcoming year.

“If we do what we do at our best I feel like we can win any game” Dartis said.

Last year Ohio ended that season with a 23-12 record, 11-7 in Mid-American Conference play. They fell to the Buffalo Bulls (88-74) in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament. The only departure for the Bobcats was Treg Setty, meaning Ohio returns 14 players and four starters.

“Our goal is to win it [the MAC] every year. We just gotta focus on what we have to focus on,” Dartis said. “I feel last year we weren’t as stable defensively and I think the energy we bring into practice this week and we’re going to continue to do I feel will carry us on and take us to the next level.”

That “next level” is winning the MAC and making the NCAA tournament. Replacing Setty on the roster are two newcomers, Jason Carter and Rodney Culver. Carter is a 6’8’’ forward who can play on the perimeter and hit threes as well as bang down low with the bigs. Carter will help Ohio’s physicality.

“Jason doesn’t need to be told his role,” Phillips said. “Be physical. Make it hurt to play against you, for Jason I guess is the best way I can put it and he does that on a daily basis.”

Culver is a 6-foot-5-inch wing that is going to help Ohio’s perimeter defense.

“I told Rodney from the get-go, he doesn’t have to score the ball once this year. Just shut people down and disrupt,” Phillips said.

The Bobcats have high expectations for this season and think they will be very good. But they know the defense must improve from where it was last year to reach their potential.