Men’s basketball: Bobcats look to keep momentum going against Chippewas

The Ohio Bobcats held the lead against the Eastern Michigan Eagles for 28 seconds. That is all they needed as Bean Willis’ 3-pointer gave the ‘Cats a 58-55 lead with 28 seconds remaining. Ohio eventually beat Eastern Michigan on Saturday, 58-56.

Now, the ‘Cats (14-5, 4-2 MAC) will travel home to take on another MAC West division foe.

Ohio will host Central Michigan (7-11, 0-6 MAC) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Chippewas are one of the youngest teams in the MAC. They have 12 players who are either in their freshman or sophomore year. Despite the lack of experience, Ohio coach Jim Christian thinks the Chippewas will present a unique challenge for the Bobcats.

“We played a lot against them last year, and a lot of those guys are back,” Christian said. “They have an interesting style. Their post players are shooters and their perimeter players are great drivers.”

Central Michigan ranks second in the MAC in scoring with 74.7 points per game. Junior point guard Stevie Taylor sees no reason as to why the ‘Cats should change their defensive strategy.

“We have to stick to our morals,” Taylor said. “We have been holding teams under their averages the past few games.”

The leading scorer on the Chippewas is sophomore guard Chris Fowler, who averages 17.3 points per game. Christian knows that Fowler can affect the game in numerous ways.

“It can’t be just one guy guarding him,” Christian said. “Different guys have to go on him. We have to keep him out of the lane and off the foul line.”

Fowler also leads the team in assists with 5.2 per game. Sophomore forward John Simons averages 10.7 points per game and is the team’s leading rebounder at 6.1 per game.

In last year’s game, the ‘Cats beat the Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, Mich., 82-63. Christian does see a few differences between this season’s team and last year’s squad.

“They are more experienced,” Christian said. “They have been in games late and have had leads late. Their pressure is pretty good and their zone is pretty good, and they can score the ball.”

The Bobcats’ dramatic come-from-behind victory against Eastern Michigan has given the team the belief that they can come back no matter the situation.

“When we get down, we know we can come back and still win games,” Taylor said. “It speaks to our guys and for me.”

Christian thinks the seniors have done an excellent job of closing games out.

“You want seniors to play in the moment and find ways to win games,” Christian said. “They each have different skill sets and different ways of impacting the game. They are not breaking down in the defining moments of the game.”

The Bobcats are 3-0 against MAC West division opponents this season. Ohio is 46-6 in its last 52 games inside the Convocation Center, but it has dropped two of its last three games at home.

The ‘Cats have won 19 of their last 23 MAC regular season games. Ohio has won nine of the last 11 meetings against the Chippewas.

Ohio holds a 44-25 series edge against Central Michigan. The last time the Chippewas won at the Convo was 2002, when it beat Ohio in the MAC Tournament first round, 65-56.

For Ohio to avoid another last-gasp victory, it must take advantage of the opportunities it gets on the offensive end. The Chippewas are 11th in the MAC in scoring defense, giving up an average of 72 points per game.

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