Ohio’s season opener against Southern didn’t go completely as expected, but it sufficed.
The Bobcats (1-0) bested the Jaguars (0-1) 77-67 on Saturday. It was the Bobcats' 13th consecutive season opening win.
Jordan Dartis led the Bobcats with 15 points, with Kenny Kaminski adding 14 points and Antonio Campbell garnering 14 points and seven rebounds.
But on a night where guard Jaaron Simmons mostly struggled (11 points, five assists and six turnovers), it was freshman Rodney Culver who made the difference for Ohio.
Culver’s perimeter defense frustrated Southern guard Trelun Banks, helping the Bobcat force 21 team turnovers and shoot 43 percent from the field. Culver had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
One basket included Culver performing a one-handed put-back slam dunk to awaken a somber Convo. The electrifying dunk pushed the Bobcats lead to 40-38, as they never trailed again.
Up to that point, however, Southern had frustrated Ohio’s usually smooth offense. Campbell picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game and Simmons finished the half with more fouls (three) and turnovers (four) than points (two).
Ohio coach Saul Phillips utilized more of his bench in the first half — nine players registered minutes in the first half — as Ohio shot just 40 percent on free throws.
But defense, a component the Bobcats harped on in the offseason, halted an opponent that made the NCAA tournament.
Ohio will be back in The Convo on Monday against Sam Houston State. Tip off is at 7 p.m.