Men’s Basketball: Willis looks to continue his hot start for Ohio

After sitting out the first game of the season due to an NCAA violation, Ohio guard Bean Willis has been showing the scoring skills that Ohio coach Saul Phillips praised in the offseason.

In three games, Willis is averaging 19.3 points per game, which currently leads the Bobcats. But he’s not just scoring a lot; he’s doing so in an efficient matter. He’s shooting 53.8 percent this season, also the best for Ohio.

In Ohio’s last game against Belmont, Willis scored a team-high 25 points (10-of-19 field goals), including the game-tying layup with just under six seconds left in the game. Willis’ scoring, alongside the rest of the Bobcat backcourt, helped keep the Bobcats in that game, but were unable to overcome Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw’s career night, where he racked up 42 points.

Willis has been the scorer that Ohio (2-2) has been looking for to go alongside Maurice Ndour, with Nick Kellogg having graduated. Despite his team-high numbers, when asked about being the No. 1 scoring option, Willis knows that Ndour will always be the guy that they look to go-to first.

“(Ndour) will always be our leading scorer at the end of the day because I feel he’ll get better high-percentage shots than me,” Willis said.

Facing St. Bonaventure, Willis will need to score, but will also need help from his teammates if they want to beat the Bonnies. So far this season, the Bonnies are holding their opponents to 37.1 percent shooting, 37th in the country. If the Bobcats want to come out with a win, they’ll need to take smart and efficient shots, something Coach Phillips has been stressing with the offense this season.

“Being coached by Coach Saul, I’m learning to take high-efficiency shots,” he said.

Help could come in the form of guards Stevie Taylor and Ryan Taylor, who combined with Willis to score 58 of the Bobcats’ 81 points against Belmont. Although Stevie has struggled this season and Ryan only being a freshman, Willis can sense the chemistry starting to come together.

“Chemistry was one thing we had to learn,” Willis said. “Coach (Phillips) stressed in practice leading up to the next game that you’re one pass away from being a good team.

“Everybody challenged themselves to make the extra pass, and we made the extra pass and everybody scored.”

The Opponent

Conference: Atlantic 10 Conference

Location: St. Bonaventure, New York

Record: 5-1

Offense: 71.8 points per game

Defense: 62.7 points per game

 

Ohio Player to Watch: Maurice Ndour

Ndour has struggled in his second season with the Bobcats, averaging 14.5 points on 40.8 percent shooting. The Bonnies are one of the best defensive teams in the country, but will have their hands full against the versatile Ndour. If he can get his shots to fall, that will open up the rest of the scoring for guys like Willis and the rest of the Ohio backcourt.

 

St. Bonaventure Player to Watch: Youssou Ndoye

Not many times will Ohio see a player this year as big as Ndoye, who stands all of 7-feet and uses all of that to his advantage. He’s a big reason why the Bonnies are a tough team to score on, averaging 3.4 blocks per game, which is 12th in the nation. If Ndoye can control the paint, it will be a long day for the Bobcat offense.

 

Prediction: St. Bonaventure 71, Ohio 67

Ohio’s defense has been shaky in two of the last three games, allowing two of their last three opponents to shoot above 50 percent from the field. Although St. Bonaventure won’t beat anyone on that end, I feel its defense is too strong for Ohio to overcome, with the Bobcats dropping their second straight.

 

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