Ohio Men’s Basketball: ‘Cats Shoot Past Broncos

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The Bobcats found themselves in a familiar spot on the offensive end of the court.

Over the previous two games, the Bobcats had failed to score more than 27 points in a half and shot just 32 percent from the field in losses to Kent State and Toledo.

Just 4:57 into Tuesday night’s matchup with Western Michigan, Ohio trailed 15-1 and had yet to make a shot.

However, unlike the previous two games, the Bobcats (10-8, 2-4 MAC) responded with an offensive burst they haven’t experienced in over three weeks to defeat the Broncos (6-13, 0-5 MAC) 81-76.

“We were just stubborn enough to not change (our offense),” Ohio head coach Saul Phillips said. “It would have been easy to deviate when you’re down like that. We continued to run the same stuff and things like that are what propelled us to have our best shooting night in quite some time.”

Ohio shot just under 51 percent from the field on Tuesday night, their best shooting performance since their win over Florida International on December 30. The offense also registered assists on 22 of the team’s 28 made shots.

The spark came largely off the bench as well. James Gollon entered the game with 14:06 to play in the first half with the Bobcats down 17-4. The junior guard hit three consecutive 3-pointers, the last one giving Ohio their first lead of the game, 23-22, with 9:40 left in the 1st.

Gollon went on to finish the game with 13 points in just eight minutes, but his night was cut short just before halftime when he suffered an injury and didn’t return to the game.

“My heart sunk,” Gavin Block said of Gollon. “Everything that he’s gone through, countless surgeries. He’s definitely the biggest team-first mentality guy that we’ve got. It sucks.”

“I’m crushed for the kid,” Phillips said. “He’s gone through so much to put himself out on that court.”

The Bobcats took a 44-37 into halftime, but came out of the locker room after hearing the news of Gollon’s injury and started the second half slow. Western Michigan cut the Ohio lead down to two early in the second half.

Another common theme for Ohio this season is lackluster second halves. This one was headed down that path early on, but it was another trend broken by the Bobcats Tuesday night.

An 11-0 run in the middle of the second half gave Ohio a 63-50 lead that gave them enough cushion to pull out the victory.

“I have a vision for how this team can play and be successful on offense,” Phillips said. “We just need to stick to it. I’ve seen (the offense) in practice frequently, but we get into games and just short circuit.”

The Bobcat offense saw four players finish in double figures. Block led the team with 16 points, Jason Carter added 15 points and 7 rebounds and Teyvion Kirk added 11 points to Gollon’s 13.

Jason Preston had his best game of the season in his first game since suffering a concussion against Kent State. The freshman point guard finished with 6 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds.

“He’s a very smart, cerebral player,” Phillips said of Preston. “He has as good of court vision as I’ve been around and he doesn’t get rattled. But the most important thing he brings to the table is that he makes other people better. There’s no question that part of our struggles the last three halves has been a result of him not being out there.”

The Bobcat defense held off a late charge from the Broncos, who cut the Ohio lead to 78-76 with 1:40 to play.

Western Michigan got 20-point performances from two players, Michael Flowers led all scorers with 24 points and Seth Dugan added 23 points and 15 rebounds.

Next up for Ohio a matchup with Ball State on January 26 in the Convo. The Bobcats have already defeated the Cardinals this season, 70-52, on January 12.

“We’re gonna try to start a two game win streak,” Phillips said.