Ryan Taylor has been given a unique opportunity. Many freshmen who come into the college basketball scene usually spend a majority of their time watching and learning from the bench.
Taylor, a native of Gary, Indiana, got the start against Appalachian State. When the Bobcats made their second-half run, it was Taylor who helped the Bobcats build an insurmountable lead that buried the Mountaineers.
Taylor scored 21 points and the Ohio Bobcats opened the Saul Phillips era with a 73-47 victory against the Appalachian State Mountaineers in front of 7,115 fans at The Convo on Saturday afternoon.
“It feels great to win at home,” Maurice Ndour said. “I was trying to be aggressive and set the tone for the team. I felt like we dominated and we need to keep doing that.”
The ‘Cats opened the second half with a 35-27 lead. Ndour went to the free-throw line twice at the beginning of the second half and made two of his four free-throw attempts to give Ohio a 37-29 lead.
After Ndour’s free throws, Taylor gave Ohio the offensive spark it needed.
Ndour, a senior forward, hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to extend Ohio’s lead to 40-29. After Ndour’s 3, Taylor dribbled the ball, went up for a shot, and his shot went through the net to give Ohio a 13-point lead.
Wadly Mompremier, a sophomore forward, hit a 3-pointer from almost the exact spot Ndour hit one earlier in the half to increase Ohio’s lead to 45-29.
Following Mompremier’s 3, Taylor hit his own 3-pointer to help Ohio increase its lead to 19 points. Taylor then made another 3-pointer to extend Ohio’s lead to 51-29 with 14:55 left in the second half.
“I was just trying to be as comfortable as possible on offense,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t really nervous at all.”
Taylor wasn’t finished, though. He dribbled toward the basket, and his floater gave Ohio a 53-29 lead, which caused Appalachian State to call a timeout.
“I wanted to take what the defense gave me,” Taylor said.
With a little more than 13 minutes remaining in the game, Taylor was substituted by Phillips, and Ohio’s student section gave its approval of Taylor’s second-half display by chanting his name as he made his way to take his seat on the bench with his teammates.
Taylor came back into the game with 11:49 left, and even though he didn’t score the rest of the game, he did earn an assist after Mompremier made a layup to give Ohio a 62-40 lead with 5:25 left in the game.
“He’s a calm kid and always has been,” Phillips said of Taylor. “He doesn’t realize what he’s just done, and he doesn’t have to, either. He also defended the best player on the other team.”
With 2:08 left in the game and Ohio leading, 70-45, Phillips made the decision to take Taylor out of the game for the final time. As he was walking toward Phillips, the crowd, including the student section, gave Taylor a rousing ovation. He gave Phillips a hug and watched the rest of the game from the bench.
Taylor got a chance to play a lot of minutes because Javarez “Bean” Wills was serving a one-game suspension due to a violation of NCAA rules. He might play less minutes when Willis comes back into the fold, but if Ohio wants to reach the NCAA Tournament come March, it’ll need Taylor to keep producing and playing smart basketball the rest of the regular season.