Ohio Men’s Basketball heats up from three, gets double-digit victory over CSU

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOUB) — When the Ohio Bobcats and Cleveland State Vikings met on December 6, 2020, in Athens, it was just the fourth game of the season for both teams. In the game, Ohio set an NCAA record as they went on a 40-0 scoring run in the game and the Bobcats thoroughly destroyed the Vikings in every aspect of the game 101-46. It fired up the Bobcats, while also giving the Vikings a wakeup call.

From that point onwards, both teams had similar seasons, with both teams making the NCAA Tournament. Ohio won the Mid-American Conference and Cleveland State won the Horizon League.

Saturday night at the Wolstein Center, they met again, this time as defending conference champions. While it wasn’t a 55-point stomping by the Bobcats, Ohio (2-0) once again came out on top, this time a lot closer, 67-56.

“Last year was crazy for everyone,” Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said.  “They drove down the day of the game, so it was different. From their non-conference on they went 19-4. They won their league, which is a really good league. Played well in the NCAA Tournament and had everybody coming back so we know this was going to be a tough road game for us.”

Heating up from three

With the thought of the 40-0 run etched in their mind, the Vikings came out with a far more aggressive defense compared to the 2020 game. They played a tight man-to-man and were much more on the ball. The Bobcats countered this by moving the ball around and shooting from deep. They ended up being very effective from deep and was the key factor in Ohio’s victory. The Bobcats finished 12-of-31 from deep, with eight different Bobcats registering a three-pointer.

Ben Vander Plas led the team with three from deep. In the first half alone, 18 of the Bobcats 36 shot attempts came from beyond the arc. They hit seven of them for a percentage of 38.9 in the first. The Bobcats game plan revolved around getting in the post and then kicking the ball out for an open three.

“They were doubling in the posts, Ohio sophomore Sam Towns said.  “We have great players who can knock down shots, so we were moving the ball around and taking advantage.”

“We try to play inside out, so get the ball in the post or in the paint and then look outside for those kickouts, Ohio junior Miles Brown said.  “We have a lot of good post players like Jason Carter and BVP (Ben Vander Plas) so when we put the ball in their hands, for the most part they’re gonna make a play and find the open man.”

Somewhat sloppy play Offensively

Besides the Bobcats good shooting from three, it wasn’t the offensive performance that Ohio expects itself to have.

After scoring 92 points each in their scrimmage against Capital and opening win over Belmont, the Bobcats offense managed just 67 points. Besides the 12 for 31 performance from three, they were just 24-of-63 on their field goals, ending the game shooting 38.1 percent from the field. That’s still a good total, but Ohio expects itself to shoot better in the future.

Ohio also had a tough time hanging on to the ball. Ohio turned the ball over 12 times in the game, six times in each half, and the Vikings scored 20 points off of those turnovers. Jeff Boals however was pleased with it only being 12 considering the type of on-ball aggressive defense that the Vikings like to play.

“I think the way they play. They reach, they grab, they smack, and we knew coming in that’s how it was going to be,” Boals said.  “So, to have 12 turnovers against that pressure and in that pressure, I thought that was really good.”

Ohio also struggled mightily to close each half out. It did not score over the final 3:32 of the first half and went 0-of-10 from the field in that span.  However, the Bobcats were still able to maintain a double-digit lead as CSU managed just one free throw in that span. Over the final 2:40 of the second half, they were outscored seven to nothing and their 18-point lead dwindled down to an 11-point lead.

In their defense, the Bobcats were looking to drain the clock away and were waiting until the last second to put up a shot.

CSU does not help itself

Despite how Ohio was playing, and the Vikings capitalizing off of turnovers, that was really the only thing keeping the Vikings in the game at all.

Cleveland State's Torrey Patton (24) goes up for a layup in the Vikings' game against Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. [Joe Collins | WOUB]
Cleveland State’s Torrey Patton (24) goes up for a layup in the Vikings’ game against Ohio on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. [Joe Collins | WOUB]
While Ohio was having a day from beyond the arc, it was a forgetful day for CSU in that department. The Vikings shot just four of 19 from deep, or just 21.1 percent. They knocked down their last two attempts from beyond the arc, meaning that they were at one point two of 17, that made for an abysmal 11.8 percent at one point late in the game.

Neither team had an outstanding day at the line, but the Bobcats only had 10 attempts and made seven of them. CSU on the other hand, almost doubled that getting to the line 19 times. They made only ten of those attempts, giving them a very poor 52.6 percent from the line as a team. The Bobcats also won the battle on the glass, outrebounding the Vikings 42-35. 14 of those were offensive rebounds for the Bobcats, nine of those coming in the first half alone. Sophomore Sam Towns had three offensive rebounds in the first half for the Bobcats, who Boals credits as a big part of the team’s success Saturday night.

“Really proud of Sam,” Boals said.  “He gave us great minutes. He didn’t play against Belmont. Came into practice and competed, had a great attitude, was a great teammate and had an opportunity when he came in and got us three offensive rebounds in the first half. I thought that really helped us, so he was huge.”

A Night of assists

Points were coming from a variety of Bobcats. Nine different Bobcats found their name on the score sheet, with Mark Sears leading the way with 15 points, Miles Brown was second with 10. The biggest statistic in this game came in the assist category. The Bobcats had 22 assists on their 24 made shots. Something that Boals and the Bobcats were very proud of after the game.

“That was phenomenal,” Boals said.  “22 Assists on 24 made shots? Like that’s unheard of. The way they play with trapping and rotating, the extra cuts we did allowed guys to get to their spots and that was huge.”

“We were moving the ball a lot, guys got open shots and Mark (Sears) did a great job distributing the ball. We shared the Ball today,” Miles Brown said.

Jason Carter and Tommy Schmock each had five assists, while Mark Sears had four. Sam Towns had three, Miles Brown and Ben Vander Plas both had two and Lunden McDay had one.

Bobcat Nation shows up and shows out

Throughout the entire night, cheers of “OU, Oh Yeah” were heard throughout the Wolstein Center.

The Ohio Alumni Association had a “Bobcat Bash” party before the game, which brought many Ohio alumni to the game and made the ratio of Cleveland State fans to Ohio fans about 50-50. Boals and the Bobcats loved the energy from the Bobcats fans and the amount that came to watch them.

“It’s awesome,” Boals said.  “When you come to the MAC Tournament here, the Bobcats fans outnumber everybody, and I think that’s special. I’m a northeast Ohio alum myself and to see the people come out for the Bobcat Bash, obviously the president (Hugh Sherman) and Julie (Cromer) was here, just an awesome night.”

“We feed off their energy and their support,” Miles Brown said.  “We love seeing the fans in the stands cheering us on, so we just love it.”

Brown then made a shoutout to Bobcat Nation.

“Thank you to all of our fans, thank you for coming and supporting us and we look forward to seeing you Monday vs Robert Morris.” 

Two great victories.

Despite them not playing their best game in their opinion, you couldn’t really ask for a better two games to start the season.

The Bobcats took on two conference favorites, Belmont of the Ohio Valley Conference and Cleveland State of the Horizon League and beat them both by double-digits. This has gotten them national praise.

Over the next week, they have three tough games. Monday, they play at home vs Robert Morris, another team from the Horizon League. Friday, they travel to take on the Kentucky Wildcats, the favorites from the Southeastern Conference, for easily their biggest non-conference game of the year.

Then, they play Monday the 22 at home vs Mount St. Mary’s, a team that made the First Four last season. We’ll really see what the Bobcats are made of with this three-game stretch.