Men’s basketball: Bobcats look to continue MAC West dominance against Broncos

After an enthralling, come-from-behind victory against MAC West-leading Toledo, the Ohio Bobcats are still on course for a MAC regular season title.

Before the ‘Cats think about being crowned MAC regular season champions, they will have to win games against the best the MAC has to offer, and the next team Ohio goes up against is seeking revenge.

The Ohio Bobcats (16-5, 6-2 MAC) will face off against the Western Michigan Broncos (12-8, 5-3 MAC) at University Arena on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Last season, Ohio was 2-0 against the Broncos. The ‘Cats won the regular season meeting at University Arena, 61-59 on Jan. 12, 2013, and in the MAC Tournament semifinals, the Bobcats beat the Broncos, 74-63, behind former point guard D.J. Cooper’s 21-point, 10-assist performance.

“We understand the history we have there (at Western Michigan),” Ohio coach Jim Christian said. “It’s going to be a heck of a game. If you don’t play well, you’re not going to win.”

Ohio is entering a tough stretch of games. This is the first of three out of the next four games on the road, and Christian knows the MAC is a balanced league.

“The challenge is playing those great teams in their building,” Christian said. “Everybody’s got a stretch of their schedule like that. It’s our turn.”

Christian thinks Western Michigan will use its physicality to stay in the game.

“They play hard,” Christian said. “They rebound the ball, score inside, guard well and protect the paint. We will have to make shots.”

So far this season, the Broncos, who currently sit one game back of Toledo for top spot in the MAC West division, are 8-2 at home this season. Christian knows that earning a win in University Arena will be difficult.

“Everybody is comfortable at home,” Christian said. “The players will play well and play with confidence. They will get a good lift from their crowd.”

Even though the Bobcats were able to record another come-from-behind victory on Saturday, junior forward Maurice Ndour thinks there is no pressure to live up to their incredible effort against Toledo.

“We have to work and do what we do every day,” Ndour said.

Ndour also said that the ‘Cats can keep adding wins if they continue to play defense.

“We have to get big stops and rebound the ball,” Ndour said. “Offense comes from defense.”

The Broncos, who have won three of their last four games, will rely on seniors David Brown and Shayne Whittington. Brown, a guard, leads the MAC with 18.4 points per game. Whittington, a center, averages 14.6 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game.

“He (Brown) has always been a good player,” Christian said. “He can post up, drive and is a confident 3-point shooter. He is one of the really good scorers in the league.”

Ohio is 5-0 against MAC West opponents this season. Dating back to last season, the ‘Cats have won 11 straight regular season games against MAC West teams.

The Green and White have won five straight road games and have an overall record of 6-2 away from the Convocation Center.

If Ohio wants to continue its three-game win streak, it must find a way to get Ndour involved. Ndour, a Senegal international, leads the team with 15.3 points per game and eight rebounds per game.

Ndour was named MAC East player of the week on Monday for the third time this season. Even though he is happy with the award, Ndour has his eyes set on a bigger prize.

“My goal is to win the national championship,” he said.

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