Jason Preston Bobcats Basketball
Jason Preston (0) dribbles towards a defender during the Bobcats’ 88-50 win over Heidelberg on November 9, 2019. PHOTO: Ben Weilgopolski

Ohio Men’s Basketball: ‘Cats Offense Falls Flat Against Campbell

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ATHENS, OH — Outside the Convo, it was a wet, dreary late-December day. Inside, the Bobcats’ offense didn’t make it any better.

Behind a shooting performance that saw Ohio make just 36 percent of its shots, the ‘Cats (8-5) fell for the first time this season to a team they were expected to beat as Campbell (9-3) came to Athens and defeated the Bobcats 63-55 on Sunday afternoon.

“We knew coming in that it would be a ‘grind out’ type of game. Low possessions,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said. “When you play a low possession type of game, you have to make shots.”

Making shots was something the Bobcats simply struggled to do for the entire game. They made their first two shots from the field but then failed to hit another field goal for nearly five and a half minutes. It took another 3:50 for Ohio to make their fourth shot. 

In total, the Bobcats went just 4-of-16 over the first 16 minutes of the game.

“Their defense…they switch a lot. It’s something we haven’t seen much of this year,” Ohio forward Ben Vander Plas said.”And shots weren’t falling for us.”

Despite a run at the end of the first half to cut a nine-point deficit to three, the ‘Cats continued to struggle to find consistent scoring in the second half. The ball was able to move and find open shooters in the final 20 minutes, but none of the wide-open looks fell. 

A perfect example of this came early on in the second half. On three consecutive trips down the floor, Jason Preston was able to drive and kick to an open man. All three of those shot attempts, two of them open three-point attempts, missed the mark.

“We missed a good amount tonight,” Preston said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games shooting 4-for-20.”

Ohio’s 4-for-20 performance from beyond the arch was only slightly better than their worst performance (3-for-20 against Villanova) so far this season and 20 percent is well below their season average of hitting 36 percent from long range.

A big part of the Bobcats’ offensive struggles was the absence of second-leading scorer Jordan Dartis. The senior guard came down an illness on Christmas Day and wasn’t able to go on Sunday.

“Having a fifth-year senior and your best three-point shooter out is not ideal, but it happens,” Boals said. “You play with who you’ve got.”

Miles Brown, who came into the game having only played seven minutes total in the ‘Cats first 12 games, was given the start in Dartis’ place. He finished with two points on 1-of-10 shooting in 25 minutes of action.

“(Miles) got some good looks, just didn’t hit them,” Boals said.

However, even with all of the Bobcats’ struggles to put the ball in the hoop, they had a slim lead with four minutes to play thanks to their play on the other end of the floor.

While the Bobcats muddled their way to 15 points in the first 16 minutes of the game, they were able to hold the Camels to just 24. It was much the same in the second half as the Bobcats defense never let Campbell pull away by more than three points over the first 18 minutes.

Before Campbell made their last five shots from the field, the Bobcats defense had held the Camels to just 36 percent from the field.

“It kept us in the game,” Boals said. “We just kept hanging around.”

“At some points in the game, we were stringing some stops together, but at some points, our lack of offense was affecting the continuation of that defense,” Vander Plas said. “We can’t let that happen.”

Even with all that, the Bobcats had seemingly taken a two-point lead on a clutch Vander Plas three-pointer with 2:29 to play, but the play was waved off. After getting an offensive rebound, Sylvester Ogbonda committed a foul in the lane and the ball went back over to the Camels. The foul was also Ogbonda’s fifth.

So, instead of a 54-52 lead with two minutes to play, the Bobcats were still trailing and had lost their starting center.

Campbell split a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession and the Bobcats didn’t score again until the game had been decided.

“I thought we got a little dejected after that. That’s a momentum changer,” Boals said. “But it’s part of the game and you have to move on.”

Preston and Vander Plas continued to pace the Bobcats on offense in the game, despite the team-wide struggles. Preston finished with a game-high 19 points, adding six rebounds and 4 assists. 10 of Preston’s 19 came from the foul line. Vander Plas tossed in 16 points and seven rebounds.

The loss to Campbell marks the end of non-conference play for the ‘Cats. The next time they take the floor, it’ll be in Mid-American Conference play.

The “second season” begins next Saturday, January 4, with a trip to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan. That game is set to tip-off at 4 p.m. from Read Fieldhouse.