After a disappointing 86-72 loss in their Mid-American Conference blockbuster at Akron, the Ohio men’s basketball team was looking to try to keep pace with the MAC East-leading Zips.
The one constant involved in Ohio’s season to date has been the victories against MAC West foes.
That trend continued on Wednesday night as the Bobcats improved their record to 4-0 against MAC West opposition with a 69-42 mauling of the Ball State Cardinals at Worthen Arena.
The one change Ohio coach Jim Christian made before the game was inserting T.J. Hall into the starting lineup in place of Ivo Baltic. In tonight’s contest, the move paid big dividends.
“We had a good start tonight, especially on defense,” Christian said. “T.J. (Hall) came in and gave us a good lift. Everyone played really well tonight.”
Ohio (16-6, 7-1 MAC) was able to play stout defense all night. They held the Cardinals to 26.5 percent shooting in the game (13-of-49), something that really pleased senior guard Walter Offutt.
“We did a good job of limiting their shots tonight,” he said. “We contested their shots, which allowed us to get a huge lead in the game.”
Offutt led the Bobcats with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. He also grabbed four rebounds and collected four steals. Hall, Reggie Keely and Baltic added 10, 9 and 8 points, respectively.
Jauwan Scaife led Ball State (8-13, 2-7 MAC) with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting. The senior guard also had two rebounds and two assists.
Ohio has a 7-1 MAC record for the first time since the 1998-1999 season, while Ball State continue their bad run of form with their seventh loss in eight games.
Just like they did in their home clash with rival Marshall, Ohio was able to begin the game with a quick start. Layups by Keely and Hall and a three-point basket from point guard D.J. Cooper handed Ohio an early 7-1 lead.
Back in his home state, Offutt buried back-to-back threes to give the Bobcats a commanding 16-3 lead with 5:13 gone in the first half.
Scaife did all he could to get the Cardinals back into the game. He made back-to-back baskets to cut Ohio’s lead to 11, 24-13, with 5:42 left until halftime.
Ohio was able to close the half on a 10-1 run after the makes by Scaife, thanks in part to three-point bombs from Offutt and Hall, and two layups by Jon Smith.
Ohio scored 19 of their 34 first-half points off of 15 Ball State turnovers. The ‘Cats shot 44 percent from the field (12-of-27) and they forced nine steals. Christian was happy with the defensive effort from his team.
“In the half-court, we were able to contest every shot they took,” Christian said. “We kept putting pressure on them all night. What we set out to do tonight we did well.”
Both teams started the second half with quick spurts. Ohio scored the first six points of the half, courtesy of layups from Offutt and Keely, but the Cardinals went on a 7-0 run of their own, with Scaife making a close range shot and Marcus Posley hitting a three-pointer to make the score 40-21 in favor of the Bobcats with 16:01 remaining in the contest.
Ohio was able to enjoy a 57-28 lead; the 29-point margin was the biggest of the night, thanks to a three-pointer from Nick Kellogg, a pair of Offutt free throws and a jumper from Smith.
Following back-to-back baskets by Baltic, Kadeem Green made a layup and a free throw, while David McKinley buried a three-pointer to seal the deal for the Bobcats, who can now move on after their setback in Northeast Ohio.
“It is always fun getting a win after a loss,” Offutt said.
After four straight on the road, the Ohio Bobcats will head back to the Convocation Center to take on the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday, Jan. 9. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.