Ohio (1-0) showed signs of rust Saturday against Southern, but that can be scraped off. More importantly, it showed its depth.
Ohio won 77-67 — its 13th consecutive season-opening win — but not without its core tenets Jaaron Simmons and Antonio Campbell struggling early on.
Simmons had more turnovers (four) and fouls (three) than assists (two) in the first half. He was also hobbled, worrying some Bobcat fans. For Campbell, early foul trouble stunted a potential double-double. Again, they were rusty.
But just as there’s multiple ways to get rid of rust, Ohio has multiple ways to win.
"I think we're one of the deepest teams in the country," Kenny Kaminsky said. "There's something about this team that is just different."
The Bobcats’ depth could be an evergoing conversation this season. Coach Saul Phillips said he didn’t get around to using everyone he wanted Saturday — like Khari Harley and Mike Laster.
He said freshman Rodney Culver, who had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting Saturday, will get his chance soon.
Phillips has flirted with the idea of a Campbell-Doug Taylor frontcourt.
And Monday against Sam Houston State, Phillips may want to go further down his bench. Not because Sam Houston (1-0) isn’t a valid opponent. Ohio knows that.
“They’re good, man, they’re good,” Phillips said of Sam Houston. “Obviously we rotate our scouting assignments for our assistants, so that’s been done about a week ago.”
Sam Houston is coming off a 104-57 dismantling of NCAA Division III opponent LeTourneau. The Bearkats also have six starters returning from a year ago. They are also a team that uses multiple rotations, as 12 players registered 10-plus minutes Saturday.
But Ohio may want to ease up on relying too much on Simmons and Campbell on Monday, and throughout the non-conference schedule.
The two All Mid-American Conference selections grinded out a combined 2,289 minutes a year ago. Phillips mentioned that he doesn’t even want guard Jordan Dartis playing 35 minutes like he did Saturday.
So sure, the games on Saturday and Monday simulates potential post season tournaments, but it also challenges Ohio’s depth early on and offers another chance to scrape off some early-season rust.
“We’re deeper than we showed tonight,” Phillips said. “I don’t live in fear of Tony being out for a spurt. I don’t live in fear of Jaaron being out for a spurt, and I can’t say that was always the case last year.”