Senegal international Maurice Ndour scored 20 points, senior guard Nick Kellogg chipped in with 16 of his own and the Ohio Bobcats started the 2013-2014 season on the right foot with a 75-64 victory against the Northern Iowa Panthers on Saturday afternoon in the Convocation Center.
“I’m really proud of our team tonight,” Ohio head coach Jim Christian said. “Led by our seniors, I thought we responded to Northern Iowa’s run really well.”
Ohio held a 67-63 lead with under two minutes remaining, and when Ohio most needed a basket, Kellogg drove to the basket and converted a reverse layup to put the result beyond doubt.
“I realized the shot clock was running low, and I had to make a play,” Kellogg said. “I hit two threes earlier, so I wanted to go to the basket and make something happen.”
With the win, the ‘Cats (1-0) have won their last 10 season openers. Northern Iowa (0-1) head coach Ben Jacobson is now 6-2 in season openers in his time in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Besides his 20 points, Ndour added five rebounds and two assists. Ricardo Johnson finished the contest with 14 points and four rebounds, while Stevie Taylor, who got the nod ahead of Javarez “Bean” Willis, ended up with 10 points and eight assists.
“I didn’t even know I had 20 points,” Ndour said. “I was excited to play, and I am going to continue to bring energy every day.”
Deon Mitchell led the Northern Iowa charge with 18 points and three assists. Chip Rank and Jeremy Morgan scored 14 and 13 points off the bench, respectively.
After trailing by a score of 4-3, the ‘Cats used three-point makes by Johnson and Willis to go on a 12-0 spurt and take a 15-4 lead against the visitors.
“We wanted to play hard and be aggressive,” Johnson said. “We took what the defense gave us, shared the basketball and played with energy.”
A Taylor layup and two Ndour baskets gave the Bobcats a 23-16 lead with 7:42 remaining in the first half. Christian was pleased with Taylor’s performance against the Panthers.
“I thought Stevie (Taylor) had a good day,” Christian said. “He was very aggressive and made plays for us during the game.”
An 8-2 run saw Ohio’s lead cut to one, but three-point baskets from Ndour, Taylor and Johnson, plus a 3-point play from Taylor to end the half gave the Bobcats a 39-32 lead at the break.
The Bobcats shot 59.3 percent from the field (16-of-27) in the first half, while the Panthers shot 43. 5 percent from the field (10-of-23). Ohio had eight assists in the first half, compared to Northern Iowa’s four, but the Panthers held a 15-11 advantage in the rebounding department.
In the second half, the ‘Cats were able to maintain a two-possession lead in the middle of the second half. A turnaround jumper and dunk by Ndour and a Willis three-pointer gave Ohio a 50-44 advantage with 11:42 remaining in the contest.
A three-point make from T.J. Hall, and two field goal makes from Johnson made the score 59-53 in favor of Ohio.
Following Johnson’s successful attempts, Kellogg started to make his mark on proceedings. The Westerville, Ohio, native scored Ohio’s next 12 points, including two three-pointers from the left corner to guide the Bobcats to a 71-63 lead with little time remaining.
“I think we have five go-to players on this team,” Kellogg said. “We have a lot of weapons who can score offensively.”
Now the Ohio men’s basketball team can turn its attention to their much-anticipated intra-state contest against No. 11 Ohio State.
The Bobcats can now start preparing for one of their biggest games of the season against the Buckeyes on Tuesday night. Despite his dad being a former Buckeye, Kellogg knows which way his family will be leaning Tuesday night.
“[My Dad] will be wearing green and white,” Kellogg said.