Before they play Akron in one of the most anticipated regular season matchups in recent MAC history, the Bobcats take a break from conference play and travel to Nashville to face the Belmont Bruins on ESPN2 as part of the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters series.
Both the Bobcats and Bruins are ranked in mid-major polls. Ohio is No. 11 in the ESPN.com Mid-Major Report Power Rankings and No. 15 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll. Belmont is ranked eighth in the ESPN rankings and seventh in the CollegeInsider.com poll.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Ohio coach Jim Christian. “You’re playing one of the better teams in the country on
national TV. It’s a great opportunity for these guys and to gain a little more exposure for our program.”
Ohio is 6-3 in the BracketBuster series, having won its last three BracketBuster games, including last year’s blowout win over UNC-Ashville.
The Bobcats (20-6, 11-1) have won five straight and are looking to keep the momentum rolling having come off a wire-to-wire victory over Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.
The Bobcats were led by D.J. Cooper’s 16 points, 10 assists and five steals. The double-double was his fifth of the season and 22nd of his career. The star point guard joined Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams as the only players to record at least 15 points, 10 assists and five steals in a game this season. Reggie Keely also continued his excellent season with a team-high 20 points.
Belmont (21-6, 12-2 in the Ohio Valley) has lost two of its past four games after beginning conference play with 10 straight wins. The Bruins are 10-0 at home and have become one of the premier mid-major programs over the past seven seasons, winning four Atlantic Sun Tournament titles in six years before moving to the OVC this season.
The Bruins are led by their own star guard, senior Ian Clark, who is one of the best shooters in the country. Clark leads the explosive Bruins in scoring averaging 18.4 points and is 17th in the nation in three-point percentage, hitting 48.1 percent of his attempts from long range. He is ninth in the country with 87 three-point makes.
Clark is an integral part of an offense that relies heavily on the three-point shot, 40 percent of their field-goal attempts come from deep. They are 11th nationally, connecting on 39.9 percent of their three point attempts.
Four of Belmont’s starting five average double digits in scoring while forward Blake Jenkins chips in 9.7 points and leads the team in field goal percentage, shooting 59.1 percent from the field.
Late start for the ‘Cats, tip-off is set for 10 p.m. at the Curb Event Center.