It didn't feel like a blowout. Or at least, Ohio didn't look like its typical self.
It went into the locker room up 38-17 after the first half against Rio Grande, a non-NCAA Division I opponent visiting The Convo after playing the night before.
Ohio eventually found its footing, though, blowing out Rio Grande 87-56 in part to every Bobcat scoring and an uptick in defense.
“Every once in awhile, you can throw passes all day long, but sometimes you have to run the ball up the middle,” coach Saul Phillips said using football terminology to describe Saturday’s more gritty play. “Maybe diversifying the ways we score, flat out making layups. But I thought 10 turnovers, I thought we were relatively efficient offensively when it came to everything except for finishing the play with a shot.”
Ohio shot just 43 percent from the field in the first half, including some rare offensive struggles in the half court.
Part of it was Phillips “throwing rotations at the wall.” Another part of it was Ohio scraping off rust.
Antonio Campbell had nine points during the first four minutes. He would end up with 17 points and 11 rebounds with 62 percent shooting.
That quick start flamed out, though. Or at least it didn’t show up again until midway through the second-half.
Jaaron Simmons struggled from the field early Saturday, shooting just 2-6 in his first eight field goals. He also only had four assists — a rarity for a guard who broke Ohio’s single-season assist record a year ago.
One pass from Simmons was an over-the-head lob to Campbell, who was streaking down to the paint, only to get picked off at midcourt. Simmons would redeem himself in the second half, finishing with 12 points in 23 minutes.
Kenny Kaminski — a member of Ohio’s “big-three” including Simmons and Campbell — struggled throughout to find his stroke, shooting 0-9 from the field, including many open looks produced thanks to flare screens.
Phillips called it an anomaly in an otherwise steady, veteran player.
“I thought once he had a couple he missed that we’re open," Phillips said. "I thought he was chasing it a little bit trying to get one to go. “If anyone out there is really worried, Kenny’s looked better at practice than he’s looked all year long. This is an anomaly, and he’s definitely better defensively than he was (a year ago).”
But, there were plenty of positives Saturday.
Freshman Rodney Culver and Jason Carter impressed in their Convo debuts.
Culver provided stout perimeter defensive pressure to the RedStorm’s ball handlers, as forward Sam Frayer called him “long and a God-given talent.” Culver finished with five points in 17 minutes.
Carter, who had 15 points and four rebounds on 4-5 shooting Saturday, showed promise on the low block.
“I think Jason is going to win MAC Player of the year during his time here,” Frayer said. “I think he’s a stud. He doesn’t force anything.”
Ohio’s defense, a concern of last year’s squad, held Rio Grande in check. The RedStorm only shot 36 percent Saturday, as the Bobcats never trailed.
“We were just excited to get back out there." Crabtree said. "We’re happy to see our defensive efforts have gotten a lot better and our hard work in the summer is doing well.”