[Darayus Sethna | WOUB]

Ohio’s depth, three-point barrage lifts it to blowout 96-68 win over Central Michigan

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Having dropped four of five conference games to start Mid-American Conference play, Ohio (10-9, 2-4) not only needed a victory, but they also needed a statement game. They can scratch off both of those from the wish list as the Bobcats dominated wire to wire in a blowout 96-68 win over Central Michigan (7-12, 2-4). 

“I thought our guys came out with a sense of urgency, which I wanted them to do after the Toledo game,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “We played a complete 40 minutes.” 

Three’s, Three’s, Three’s

Ohio’s gameplan revolved around knowing that the Chippewas bread and butter revolved around blocking shots down low, as they’re second in the MAC in blocked shots per game. They knew to have success, they needed to be effective from deep.

A season high 15 3-pointers and 47 percent from beyond the arc paints a picture of a successful game plan. 

“I thought we made the right plays,” Boals said. “We had wide open looks. We knew the way they guarded that if we got the ball in the paint, if you collapsed the defense somebody’s gonna be open, and I thought we did a really good job of finding the open man.”

Leading the 3-point barrage was senior guard Miles Brown. “Downtown Miles Brown” was announced six times over the Convo P.A. system as Brown shot a highly successful 66 percent from deep, while scoring a new career-high 27 points. 

“He was on fire,” Boals said. “He was huge. He had 23 in the first half. He played the game the right way and took what was given to him.”

To Brown, who has been challenged by the coaching staff this year to become the team leader, it’s the team’s ability to work as a group that allows him to have success.

“My teammates were just finding me really,” Brown said. “I was just getting open shots, playing the game, letting the game come to me. I try not to force anything and just play the right way and my shots will come to me.” 

Ohio’s depth starting to show

While the Bobcats have a lot of new faces, one thing that was hammered in the preseason was the depth that the team could have.

“When we saw our roster over the summer, we knew that we were going to be a really good, deep team,” Brown said. We have a lot of guys that can get on the floor and make a play.” 

One bright spot in their loss against the Rockets was that the Bobcats bench scoring 40 of Ohio’s 75 points, with freshman Elmore James leading the game with 21 points. Saturday, James was in the starting lineup for the first time in his young college career.

It was amazing,” James said. “The fact that my older sister graduated from here, it makes everything much better. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Boals felt that over the past few games James has shown what he’s really capable of. 

“Elmore’s gonna be a really good player,” Boals said. “To see what he did at Toledo, he was fearless, and I thought he competed on both ends of the floor which was what we wanted. We wanted to reward him for that.” 

Saturday against the Chippewas, the Ohio bench once again showed up big time scoring 33 points. 13 of the 14 active players on the roster got in the game, while 10 were able to get in the first half alone. Boals says that being able to rotate that many guys will be key for them going forward.

“I think we got multiple guys who can play,” Boals said. “We kind of went away from that, you know the kind of eight- or nine-man rotation. As long as those guys can come in and provide a lot of energy, I think they can really help us.”

Defense bounces back

After a tough 90-75 loss to Toledo last Tuesday that saw the Rockets shoot nearly 60 percent from the field, Ohio was much more satisfied with the performance defensively Saturday.

“That’s kind of our identity of what we want to get back to,” Brown said. “We knew it was a tough game against Toledo, so this was kind of our bounce back game.” 

Holding on to the ball was of importance going into Saturday and something they wanted to clean up from previous games. Not only did the Bobcats commit a season low nine turnovers, but they forced Central Michigan into 15. Eight of those turnovers were off of steals, with junior Jaylin Hunter leading the way with four steals. Hunter’s defense has really started to earn the respect of his teammates.

“Jaylin is amazing both on offense and defense.” Brown said. “When he’s just active like that, it’s just contagious for everyone.”

With the win, if the regular season ended today, the Bobcats would be eighth in the MAC, but there are still 12 more conference games to go. The next will be Tuesday the 24th, when Ohio hosts the Western Michigan Broncos.