For the last two season, coach Bob Boldon has strayed from running a 2-3 zone.
On Saturday, however, Boldon made an adjustment, using a defense that meshed man-to-man and zone principles together. The result?
Ohio beat Eastern Michigan handily, 68-51, in The Convo.
With the Eagles entering the game as one of the worst shooting teams in the Mid-American Conference (36.3 percent), the Bobcats practically wanted their visitors to shoot. The zone frees space for offenses along the perimeter.
“They’re (Eagles) just crazy athletic, and I don’t think that we could get up and pressure them and take things away from them,” Boldon said.
The Bobcats, who thrive on playing a man defense, used their athleticism to force the Eagles to shoot difficult shots from the perimeter. The Eagles shot 20 percent from the 3-point line.
The Bobcats tried something new, and that was the game plan. It was specific to Eastern Michigan, but Ohio wants to have more team-specific game plans in the future.
“I don’t know that we can be as blatant about playing the way we played in the past,” Boldon said. “We’re going to have to maybe do a little bit more game plan-type defenses than we have in the past.”
The Bobcats have been predictable on defense; teams know they prefer to use the half-court man defense.
“I think sometimes you have to make changes,” Quiera Lampkins said.
A mid-season change may be what Ohio needs as it continues conference play. MAC teams are scoring a combined average of 69.6 points per game.
Teams like OU — teams that prefer using a man defense — usually have solid athleticism. Teams using a zone typically have limited athleticism, not being able to defend players one-on-one.
But even with the zone not requiring elite athleticism, it does require discipline, something that is plentiful for a team that has three seniors in the starting lineup.
“It’s an older team, it’s a smart team, it’s a very mature team,” Boldon said. “And then they’re able to handle a couple of different things, and I think that gives us some options.”
Boldon has said the Bobcats need to string together consecutive games in which they play well defensively. Even if the offense suffers, the defense must return to its solid play.
Defense is based on pride – players must want to stop their respective opponents. Pride in stopping someone, however, has not been in abundance among the Bobcats.
But in the past two games, the Bobcats have progressively returned to playing solid defense. And perhaps their pride is returning, too.
Ohio has allowed an average of 53 points in its past two games. The Bobcats flourished on a defensive identity at the beginning of the season, especially when their offense was struggling.
“I thought these last two games defensively were good,” Boldon said. “I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job of guarding tonight."