Men’s Basketball: Bobcats looking for marquee win against nationally ranked Minutemen

For the second time this season, the Ohio men’s basketball team (7-2) will do battle against a nationally ranked program.

Jim Christian’s squad will be hoping to improve its resume Wednesday night when the Bobcats welcome No. 22 Massachusetts (9-0) to the Convocation Center for a 7 p.m. start time.

The last time the Bobcats took on a ranked opponent was Nov. 12 when they traveled to Columbus to square off against then-No. 10 Ohio State. Despite 21-point efforts from guards Nick Kellogg and Stevie Taylor, the Bobcats’ late rally fell short in a 79-69 defeat.

In their last game against Alabama A&M on Saturday, Maurice Ndour, Bean Willis and TJ Hall scored 12 points, and Ricardo Johnson and Jon Smith added 8 points each in a 72-47 victory.

During Ohio’s victory against the Bulldogs, Kellogg became the 36th player in Ohio men’s basketball history to tally 1,000 points.

Following another strong defensive showing, the ‘Cats have held six of their nine opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the floor this campaign. Ohio is second in the Mid-American Conference in three-point field goal percentage defense, and the Bobcats are No. 11 in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 37. 2 percent.

The Green and White are 11-50 all-time against ranked opponents, including a 3-5 mark at home. The last time the Bobcats hosted a nationally ranked team was Feb. 27, 2013, when MAC rival Akron made its annual trip to the Convocation Center. The last top-20 squad to make the trek to Athens was No. 7 Kentucky on Dec. 30, 1997.

Coming into the contest, both Kellogg and Ndour are averaging 13.9 points per game. Ndour leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, while Taylor has a team-high 3.8 assists per game for the Bobcats.

The Minutemen are off to their best start since the 1998 season. UMass has earned quality wins against LSU, Clemson, BYU and then-No. 19 New Mexico.

The Atlantic-10 program is No. 25 in the nation in scoring offense at 84 points per game.

For the Bobcats to be successful, they need to contain Chaz Williams and Cady Lalanne. Williams, a redshirt senior guard, ranks third in the country with 7.6 assists per game and leads the team with 16.9 points per game. Lalanne, a junior forward, is averaging 15.2 points per game on 61.3 percent shooting from the field while pulling down 9.8 rebounds per game.

The ‘Cats must take care of the basketball if they are to pull off the upset. After averaging 10.6 turnovers per contest in their first seven games, Ohio has committed 17.5 turnovers per game in their last two matches. The Bobcats are 6-0 when they commit fewer turnovers than their opponent this season.

Ohio has a 47-34 all-time record against teams currently in the A-10.

Wednesday’s clash will be the third meeting between the two schools. Last season, UMass earned an 85-76 victory in Amherst on Dec. 19, 2012. Kellogg scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the defeat.

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