Men’s Basketball: Bobcats, Crusaders look to avenge Big Ten losses

Ricardo Johnson has filled the role left by Walter Offutt and Ivo Baltic. (Carl Fonticella)

Ricardo Johnson has filled the role left by Walter Offutt and Ivo Baltic. (Carl Fonticella)

After tough losses to Big Ten powers, both Ohio and Valporaiso will look to rebound in Sunday’s matchup in the Convocation Center.

The Bobcats (1-1), are coming off of a tough loss at No. 10 Ohio State, where their second half comeback fell just short. Despite the loss, the Bobcats learned that they can hang with anyone.

“I feel like we can compete with anyone in the country,” said senior gaurd/forward Ricardo Johnson. “We have to be able to finish games and hold each other accountable.”

Johnson, who totaled nine points and four rebounds Tuesday night, has so far been able to fill the starting roles vacated by former Bobcats Walter Offutt and Ivo Baltic.

“My success so far just comes from being patient, being smart, and letting the game come to me,” he said. “I’m just understanding my role.”

In that contest, Ohio point guard Stevie Taylor co-lead all scorers with 21 points. But Ohio head coach Jim Christian feels the senior needs to add another dimension to his game.

“As well as he played, he played 30 minutes with only one assist,” he said. “He has to play with a lot of confidence, but he also has to get guys plays.”

Christian was also proud of the way that JUCO transfer Maurice Ndour played in only his second Division I game. Ndour scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 33 minutes.

“He’s a key player, no doubt about it,” he said. “If he stays healthy and out of foul trouble, he’s going to get a lot of minutes. He’s a valuable part of what we do, both offensively and defensively.”

Valporaiso (2-1) is coming off a near-upset of its own in Champaign, Ill. The Crusaders hung around with Illinois, and had the Illini lead down to two with just under five minutes remaining. Illinois would go on to win the game 64-52.

“They were very good defensively,” said Christian of the Crusaders’ performance. “There were one or two plays that, if they go the other way, they have an opportunity to win the game.”

With three forwards at 6 foot 10 or taller, including fifth-year senior Bobby Capobianco, the Crusaders will have a significant height advantage over the Bobcats. But Christian see Valporaiso’s strength in their shooters.

“They score in a bunch of ways,” he said. “They’re a great offensive team. They average 80 points a game. They really share the ball, they run some good stuff…They have a real balanced attack.”

The Crusaders are led by senior guard Jordan Coleman, who is averaging 15 points per game to begin the season. Sharp-shooter senior gaurd LaVonte Dority leads the team in three-point field goals, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. Capobianco and freshman Alec Peters control the paint, averaging a combined 9 rebounds per game.

Tipoff is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Convocation Center.

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