In the first game of the Saul Phillips era, the Ohio Bobcats defeated the Marietta Pioneers, 82-69.
The opening act was not smooth sailing all game. Marietta came out like a team that wanted to win, leading by as many as 14 points in the first half. However, the defense, which was Ohio’s identity last year, came up big when it needed it most.
“We started to get stop after stop, building up the energy (on defense),” senior forward Maurice Ndour said.
After trailing by as many as 14 with just under seven minutes left in the first half, the Bobcats turned up the intensity before the half. Ohio finished the first half on a 13-2 run, thanks in part to its effort on the defensive end. Ohio held the Marietta to just 3-of-13 shooting from the field as a team in the final six minutes in the half and also forced five turnovers. Ohio took advantage of the turnovers, scoring 10 points off them.
After allowing Marietta to shoot 48.5 percent from the field in the first half, Ohio held Marietta to under 30 percent shooting and just 27 points in the second half.
Offensively, the Bobcats could not find any rhythm in the first half. Outside of senior guard Stevie Taylor, who had 15 points, the rest of the Bobcats scored 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Their points per possession in the first half was .974, which means their efficiency was not effective. As many turnovers as they forced, the Bobcats also coughed up the ball plenty of times, with 18.7 percent of their possessions ending in a turnover.
Those number looked dramatically different in the second half. Ohio had 1.257 points per possession and shot 58.4 percent from the field in the second half, thanks in part to their preseason All-MAC East selection Maurice Ndour. Ndour struggled in the first half, but took over the game as soon as the second half started, which included back-to-back and one’s to give Ohio a 45-44 lead just two minutes into the second half. Ndour would finish the game with 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
“Coach (Phillips) told me I wasn’t playing hard enough in the first half, so I had to turn it up,” Ndour said.
Ohio did a good job of spreading the scoring; four guys in double figures today, leading with Ndour’s 18. The Bobcats had 16 assists today on 29 field goals, good for a 55 percent assist rate.
After a struggling start, the Bobcats were able to finish strong, outscoring Marietta 45-29 in the second half. Coach Phillips credited the team with ending the game on a high note.
“We saw some things today that made us think we can achieve something special at the end of the year,” Phillips said.
Ohio’s first official game of the season will be Nov. 15, a home game against Appalachian State.
– Stevie Taylor left today’s game with a leg injury. He suffered it in the middle of the second half and looked to be non-contact. He was able to walk off under his own power and went straight to the locker room. Coach Phillips said it was just a cramp and that he will be fine in the future.
– Of the nine guys that played today, two of them were freshman Ryan Taylor, who got the start, and Mike Laster. Laster had 11 points, including a monster slam from the baseline. Many people have been raving about their athleticism, and today was a good sign in their progress for this season.
– Despite a pretty sizable advantage in the post for Ohio, the Bobcats struggled early in the game in controlling the glass. Ohio would finish with five more rebounds than Marietta, but that is nothing impressive when Marietta’s tallest player was 6-foot-4. Coach Phillips stressed the rebounding after the game.