It was never going to be a contest where Ohio’s talent and skill were going to be tested, but rather, a game where Ohio’s professionalism was going to be questioned.
Even though the Heidelberg Student Princes (1-2) hung around for a majority of the game, the Bobcats finally put their best foot forward in a game they were expected to win.
Bolstered by a career high in points by Jon Smith, the Ohio Bobcats (4-1) won their third straight contest by cruising past Heidelberg, 85-57.
“Tonight in the second half, we played the way we are capable of playing,” Ohio head coach Jim Christian said. “I thought we started a little tentatively with our offense dictating our effort on defense early in the game, but we corrected that in the second half.”
Smith scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the contest. The Grove City, Ohio, native added eight rebounds and one assist for the ‘Cats.
“He’s one of those guys that does a lot of things well,” senior guard Nick Kellogg said. “The scoring adds to his defensive presence and his vocal leadership, which helps us out.”
After struggling to rack up the assists in previous encounters, the ‘Cats were able to tally 26 assists, seven of which were from junior guard Stevie Taylor. Christian wanted his team to get back to what they do best.
“Going into the game, he (Coach Christian) put an emphasis on that,” Kellogg said. “It was in all of our heads to find the extra pass and set other guys up.”
Guard Mike Petrie proved to be a handful early in the match for the ‘Cats. Petrie’s fourth three of the contest gave the Student Princes a surprising 24-22 advantage with 7:54 left until intermission.
Kellogg and the rest of his teammates were not pleased with the way the team executed, even though they took a 38-29 lead into halftime.
“You have to give Heidelberg a lot of credit,” Kellogg said. “They shot the ball pretty well. I don’t think our effort was where it needed to be in the first half.”
Kellogg paced the Bobcats with 18 points and six rebounds. Ricardo Johnson added 13 points and T.J. Hall chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
In his 18 minutes of action, guard Javarez “Bean” Willis tallied eight points and distributed four assists, which pleased Christian.
“He’s still learning,” Christian said. “He was really good on the ball today. On the ball defense is where everything is going to start for him. Once he gets more comfortable with some other things, he will help us more.”
Guard Keith Mackie led the Student Princes with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Petrie and Deonte Holder each added 12 points, and Cole Williams grabbed seven rebounds.
The Bobcats shot 51 percent from the field in the contest (32-of-63). The Green and White also made nine three-pointers and out-rebounded the visitors 48-29.
Ohio held Heidelberg to 33 percent shooting in the game (18-of-55) and the ‘Cats forced 16 Student Prince turnovers.
With the win, the Bobcats are now 41-3 in their last 44 games inside the Convocation Center.
Following Petrie’s three with less than eight to go until the break, Ohio responded with a monster run. Kellogg scored 10 of the Bobcats 14 straight points to hand the ‘Cats a 36-24 lead with 3:44 remaining in the first half.
At the start of the second half, Ohio was put to the test. Two three-point baskets from Mackie cut the Heidelberg deficit to three, 43-40, with 15:53 left in the game.
Later in the second half, Ohio went on another gargantuan run, this time a 19-3 spurt. Two Kellogg trifectas and a thunderous jam from Johnson lifted the Bobcats to a 70-47 lead with less than eight minutes remaining in the contest.
Wadly Mompremier added a free throw and layup, and Willis converted on a layup for Ohio’s final five points of the afternoon.
“Our strengths of the team are pretty well documented,” Christian said. “We have a team that different guys have the ability to lead us at different times. But we have to be a better free throw shooting team and take a bit more pride in execution in the halfcourt.”
The Bobcats will now prepare for their third game of four in the Ohio Classic when they face off against Mercer on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Christian is expecting a tough game.
“They are a senior-oriented group,” Christian said. “They are coming here with the mentality of they are used to winning.”