Bobcat fans may not “Still Believe” in their team after an ugly loss in the Music City.
Ohio (20-7) fell to Belmont (22-6) in Ramada Worldwide Bracket Buster Challenge, Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee, 81-62.
The Bobcats would strike first with a T.J. Hall three pointer, but the offense would quickly stall. Ohio would shoot only 36 percent during the first half. Fueled by a raucous student section, Belmont would shoot over 50 percent and take a 17-point lead into halftime. Hall would finish the game with 10 points and five rebounds.
“My message was if we get the lead under 10 then we’re right back in the ball game,” said coach Jim Chrisitan of his halftime speech.
Ohio would indeed cut the lead to ten early in the second half, fueled by bench points from Ricardo Johnson and Stevie Taylor. But two straight turnovers and four quick points would eliminate any momentum that the Bobcats had built.
After that, Belmont never took its foot off the gas pedal. The Bruins would shoot 52 percent for the game, and 36 percent from three. Leading the way for Belmont was senior guard Ian Clark, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
“Hell of a player. He’s phenomenal,” said Christian. “He shoots 57 percent from the floor and averages 19 a game from the two guard spot. There’s no one in the country close to that.”
No Bobcat came close to matching Clark’s performance. Reggie Keely came the closest with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Ohio struggled shooting all night, making just six three pointers all night. A crowded shooters background and a hostile fan base kept the Bobcats out of sync all night.
Fans chanted “Papa’s boy” every time D.J. Cooper touched the ball. They referred to Ohio players Johnson and Nick Kellogg as “Fresh Prince” and “Cereal.” But the Bruin fan base had it’s most fun with Stevie Taylor.
In the first half, Taylor would hit a three to bring the game within nine. A fired-up Taylor would flash “3 Goggles” on his way down the court.
Country music Hall of Famer Vince Gill, who was seated behind the Belmont bench, didn’t take kindly to Taylor’s gesture.
Throughout the second half, Gill would flash the three-finger salute to Taylor on the bench. He would respond with a three and a cold stare as he walked down the court.
“That’s just part of the game. He’s a cool dude, there’s no hard feelings,” said Taylor. Taylor, not much of a country music fan, had no idea who he was smack talking.
Actually I didn’t [know him],” said Taylor. “I checked my twitter and saw somebody say something.”
The loss was particularly deflating for Ohio, as they prepare for a rematch with conference leading Akron on Wednesday.
“We can’t sulk,” said Taylor. However, Christian wasn’t concerned about his team’s momentum.
“If we need energy to play Akron at this point in time, then we don’t have it,” he said. “It’s a good thing it wasn’t in conference or else it would hurt more.”
Though tonight’s loss was tonight to swallow for the Bobcats, the Bracket Buster Challenge has been mostly a positive throughout the years. Ohio has a 6-4 record in the challenge, which ends after this year.
“It’s been great,” said Christian. “It’s nice to step away from the conference. They exposed us in some areas today so we’ll try and grow from it.”
Ohio next plays host to Akron this Wednesday, in the Convocation Center.Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
— Chris Longo helped contribute to this report.