Ohio Men’s Basketball: What Went Wrong for the Bobcats in their Season-Ending Loss to Creighton< < Back to
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOUB) — The magic dust withered away from the Ohio Bobcats as a 72-58 loss at the hands of the Creighton Bluejays put an end to Ohio’s unexpected journey into the NCAA Tournament.
Coming into the game, the Bobcats always were able to push the pace up the floor and then set screens to allow Jason Preston to find an open man or be able to drive towards the basket for the shot. That had been their bread and butter for pretty much the entire season, which is exactly what Creighton’s game plan would be defensively. Whenever Ohio would try to set a screen, the defender on Preston and the defender who would be screened would both converge on to Preston to double-team him, forcing the play to have to be facilitated by another player.
“I think the way they guard us, they switched a lot, Ohio Head Coach Jeff Boals said. They trapped those ball screens. They were very physical, pushing us off the block. A lot of those shots, we miss in the first half. They’re a lot better defensive team after I played them than I thought coming in.”
Ohio started off the game pretty well, jumping out to leads of 5-0 and 11-5 and it looked like we were in store for a good shooting performance by the Bobcats. However, the Bluejays crawled back in and made it 13-11 before both teams would trade a couple of three-pointers to tie it up at 19 just past eight minutes remaining in the half. The rest of the first half would turn into a disaster for the Bobcats. During that span, the Blue Jays would outscore Ohio 20-5. During that stretch, Ohio would turn the ball over a couple of times, most of those would come in transition where either a player wouldn’t catch the pass, or the ball would bounce off of them and out of bounds. The problem with that was it always occurred when the Bobcats were just starting to get a little bit of momentum.
“We wanted to get up and down, Boals explained. Transition has been a big key for us all year long, and we weren’t able to get some easy looks in transition.”
Leading the charge for the Bluejays during that span was Marcus Zegarowski. The Junior guard and consensus All-American, was a perfect three for three from beyond the arc in the half. The Blue Jays had all year made a living off the three ball. In Monday night’s game, the Bluejays made it a goal to keep moving the ball around and tire out a Bobcats squad that was just coming off of a grueling victory over Virginia not even two days prior. With the Bobcats tired, it allowed Creighton to open up from deep and they delivered.
“When you play a team like that where they really push the ball, and they’ve got great guards, Boals pointed out. I think they’ve got three seniors, couple juniors, thousand-point scorers, multiple guys, multiple guys that can make threes, we missed shots, and they turned those into transition points.”
The Bobcats hit just one of their last 12 shots in the half and just 10 of 32 for the half, or 23%. The Bluejays finished off hot and shot 45% from the field. what was once a close game that looked like it would be neck and neck the whole way, had turned into a 39-24 halftime lead for Creighton.
“We got some really good looks in the first half, but they just didn’t fall,” Boals said. “When you dig yourself that big a hole against a really good offensive team, you spend so much energy getting back into it.”
In the second half, the Bobcats did better with their shooting and started moving the ball around more. The problem was the Bobcats could never play efficient on both sides of the ball at the same time. Whenever they scored, Creighton would answer back. Whenever the Blue Jays were missing shots, the Bobcats would turn the ball over or miss a shot. As you can expect, it’s hard to get back into the game when the margin is constantly staying the same throughout the half.
“In the second half, we competed, battled, fought back into it,” Boals said. “I thought our press was effective, but when you do that, you expend a lot of energy, and I think we were down ten. J.P. shot that ball with about 4:07 left. He hits that three. You’re down seven with four minutes to go, and it’s a different ball game.”
The Bobcats got to within nine with about three to go, but that was the closest they ever could get in the second half. That being because they would either turn the ball over on a fast break or miss a shot at the free throw line. It was not a great night at the line by any means for the Bobcats. They shot just one of six from the line in the first half and 9 of 16 for the game, just 56%. However, the Bobcats biggest struggle was from three. The Bobcats made their first three attempt of the game, but would just hit three of their next 21 attempts, something that prevented them from crawling back in. The Bobcats would finish seven of 30 from beyond the arc.
The first person to tell you they did not have a great game is Jason Preston. Preston, who was been making headlines with his spectacular play this season, had what he says is his worst performance of his career. The Junior guard scored just four points on the night and was one of 10 from the field, missed all three opportunities from beyond the arc and was just two of four from the line. Now granted, it wasn’t really Preston’s fault as Creighton had an excellent game plan from the start on how to neutralize Preston and force someone else to make a play.
“You know, give them credit,” Preston said. “They were really determined in the first half to get the ball out of my hands and ball screens, trap me hard. But I missed a lot of make-able shots tonight, a lot of floaters I should have finished, missed all my threes. This is on me. I missed so many make-able shots.”
Without their best player knocking down shots, it wasn’t going to be easy for Ohio to get back in, especially with how Creighton’s playstyle is. The Bluejays have some big man that are very athletic for their size, the biggest cases being Christian Bishop and Damien Jefferson. Bishop was a thorn in Ohio’s side tonight as he was a force on the glass, grabbing 15 rebounds, four of those being offensive. Bishop scored 12 points and was six of seven tonight from the field, most of those being slam dunks. Jefferson scored 15 points on the night and was constantly driving towards the basket and putting shots off the glass. He’d finish six of 13. Zegarowski would lead all Blue Jays with 20 points on the night and two others would score 10 plus points, making that five Blue Jays in double figures.
With the 72-58 win, The Bluejays will move on to their first Sweet 16 in school history where they will take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the top seed in this tournament. As for the Bobcats, their season is over, and while the fate of whether Jason Preston will enter the NBA Draft or return to OU for another year is still unclear, the rest of the Bobcats should be returning. In just his second year, Jeff Boals led the Bobcats to a MAC Championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The future is very bright for this Ohio team and now they can work on defending their conference title and getting back to this national stage.