(Logan Riely/WOUB)

Ohio Cruises in Regular Season Tune-Up

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Ohio University Men’s Basketball returned to action with an exhibition game against the Rio Grande RedStorm.

The theme all preseason has been defense. Head coach Saul Phillips and his guys have preached that they must get better on defense if they want to reach their goals.

That improved defense was on display Saturday when the Bobcats defeated the RedStorm 85-56. Ohio held Rio Grande to just 17 points in the first half, and under 30 percent shooting from the field.

“Our goal was to contest every single shot, they took today” Phillips said. “It certainly did not get to that point, we believe there were two in the first half that we did not contest. But our help side defense was much better from where it was last year. I can’t say it surprised me because it’s been better.”

Ohio held Rio Grande to 0-9 from behind the arc in the first half and 4-23 for the game. No player on the RedStorm scored more than eight points.

“We were happy to get back out there and see our defensive effort level have gotten a lot better and our hard work over the summer went well,” Drew Crabtree said.

None of the starters played more than 23 minutes for the Bobcats, and each of the starters played very little in the second half.

Despite getting good looks, the Bobcats struggled to connect in the first half, shooting just 33 percent from the field. Kenny Kaminski struggled with his stroke, going 0-7 in the first half and 0-9 from the field for the game. But Ohio got off to a fast start, scoring 16 of the game’s first 20 points. Reigning Mid-American Conference player of the year Antonio Campbell looked like his normal self, scoring 11 points during the hot start.

With 14:16 to go in the first half, the Bobcats subbed out Preseason All-MAC First-Teamer Jaaron Simmons. During the three minutes Simmons was off the floor, Ohio failed to score a point. That was part of a six-minute stretch where the Bobcats scored just two points.

Freshman Jason Carter hit his first field goal as a Bobcat with 6:22 to go, a three-pointer that put Ohio up 28-12. Ohio closed the half on a 10-3 run and led 38-17.

Phillips went to his starters to begin the second half. The starters played the first six minutes of the half. During that stretch, Ohio scored 15 points and each player scored a point. With Ohio holding a comfortable 53-27 lead, the rest of the time was used to give the younger players and second unit valuable minutes.

The four walk-ons (Crabtree, Sam Frayer, Jaylin McDonald and Antonio Bisutti) played the final three minutes. Each of those players scored a point, giving every player on the roster, except the two players red shirting, a bucket.

“That was our goal was to get all four of us a bucket,” Frayer said.

Besides the defense for Ohio the other thing drawing noticeable praise was the play of freshman Jason Carter. Carter scored 15 points and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes of action. Frayer thinks this is just the beginning for Carter.

“I think Jason is winning MAC player of the year during his time here,” Frayer said.

Campbell scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Carter had 15, Simmons provided 13 and four assists and Jordan Dartis added 13 as well. Abraham Eze led the RedStorm with eight points. Raul Timoner added six points and eight rebounds.

The Ohio Bobcats are in action next Saturday, for real this time, against Southern University. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.