With finals week in the past and the second-half debacle at Oakland behind them, the Ohio men’s basketball team can now look forward to one of the most important home contests in their history.
The Bobcats (7-2) continued their strong start to the season with an impressive 72-47 victory against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs (3-5) at the Convocation Center on Saturday afternoon.
“We did a lot of good things on the defensive end of the floor tonight,” Ohio head coach Jim Christian said in his post-game radio interview. “We did have too many turnovers, which we need to clean up before our game Wednesday.”
Midway through the first half, the Bulldogs were only down by two, but the Bobcats made their big push. A 14-0 run, which included three-pointers from Javarez “Bean” Willis and T.J. Hall, gave the Bobcats a 30-16 lead with 3:49 until halftime.
Willis, Hall and Maurice Ndour all scored 12 points for the Bobcats. Willis added two rebounds and four assists, Hall contributed four rebounds and two steals, and Ndour chipped in with six rebounds and four blocks.
On the other side, Demarquelle Tabb and Jeremy Crutcher each tallied 11 points. Tabb added one rebound, and Crutcher supplied three rebounds and four assists.
Crutcher hit a deep three-pointer with little time remaining in the first half to make the score 37-22 in favor of the home side.
Even though they fell flat in their last road contest, Christian was pleased to see his team bounce back from their inept performance in Michigan.
“We practiced well this week,” Christian said. “We need everybody to play, and T.J. (Hall) needs to get going from three. We have a lot of work to do before Wednesday.”
Besides Willis, Hall and Ndour, Travis Wilkins scored seven points, while Antonio Campbell scored six straight points at one point during the second half.
If the Bobcats want to make another deep tournament run, Christian knows he will need to receive stellar play from his reserves.
“They are the strength of our team,” Christian said.
Christian also gave praise to Campbell. The second-year head coach said the freshman did a good job scoring in the low post, but Christian did admit Campbell still has to work on his defense.
After Alabama A&M took its first and only lead of the game at 7-6, Willis converted on a layup and canned a three-pointer to give the ‘Cats an 11-7 lead with 13:36 left in the first half.
“It’s been a bumpy road for me,” Willis said. “My teammates have been helping me, and I am trying to focus on the next game and be positive.”
After the first 20 minutes, Ohio shot 50 percent from the floor (12-of-24) and held a 16-13 rebounding advantage. The ‘Cats held the Bulldogs to 37.5 percent shooting (9-of-24) and also had seven steals compared to Alabama A&M’s four.
In the second half, Maurice Ndour stole the ball and scored on a slam dunk, and Ricardo Johnson buried two free throws to give the Bobcats a 41-24 lead with 15:44 left in the second half.
A Willis floater and Johnson three-pointer extended the Green and White’s lead to 18, 50-32, with 11:40 remaining in the contest.
After Campbell scored six straight points in the paint, Wilkins earned a steal and made an easy layup, and Treg Setty added a free throw to give Ohio 70 points on the day.
The Bobcats are now 6-0 at home this season.
Ohio held Alabama A&M to 28 percent shooting for the game (15-of-54) and the ‘Cats recorded nine blocks.
The Bobcats will now get ready to take on nationally ranked Massachusetts (9-0) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside the Convocation Center. Christian is expecting a hard-fought game.
“It will be a great test,” Christian said. “They are a confident and tough team. We have to make the plays we are capable of making to win.”