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Ohio University's Jaaron Simmons goes up to the basket against Sam Houston's Paul Baxter during a home game against Sam Houston State at the Convocation Center on November 14, 2016. Ohio University defeated Sam Houston 96-75. "MICHAEL JOHNSON | FOR THE POST"

Men's Basketball: Ohio's defense swarms Cleveland State in win

Saturday’s matchup between Ohio and Cleveland State wasn't the cleanest basketball game. It wasn't the worst, but it was nowhere near the best basketball Ohio has played.

Ohio won 71-53 on Saturday night at The Convo, where its largest lead at one point was 21. Ohio trailed for 37 seconds. It was the fourth-straight win for Ohio over Cleveland State dating all the way back to 1999.

But similar to Ohio’s Wednesday night’s win against Milwaukee, Saturday wasn’t exactly what Ohio coach Saul Phillips had in mind.

Antonio Campbell — usually a consistent double-double for the Bobcats (he has four this season already) — had the same amount of fouls (three) as points eight minutes into the second half. He would finish with 14 points and six rebounds.

“It was a tough night for Tone. It was,” Phillips said of Campbell.

Jaaron Simmons, the team’s leading playmaker with seven assists per game, had the same amount of turnovers (eight) as assists (eight). Ohio’s 23 turnovers were the most by the team all season. 

Phillips said Ohio’s turnovers stemmed from being impatient with its passing. Doug Taylor said it came from simple mental mistakes.

“Impatience,” Phillips said. “Make three passes instead of one great one and you’re going to get a better shot … I can promise you, we do work on that and will continue to work on that. It’s something I’ve always taken a large amount of pride in and one of the cornerstones of what I try to build my programs on is taking care of the ball.”

Campbell, despite his unusual, subpar performance, lead all scorers with 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting.

Still, the Vikings were worse. Cleveland State’s 53 points were its third-lowest point total all season. Ohio’s defense caused 18 turnovers, too, and held Cleveland State’s scoring percent to mostly to two pointers (30 points, or 60 percent).

In totality, Cleveland State shot just 3-for-21 (14 percent) from beyond the arc and 32 percent overall. When Ohio’s defense started to string together stops, its offense finally got comfortable in the second half.

“Really odd start, just some odd plays and calls,” Phillips said. “Throughout it all, the narrative tonight was that we were really good defensively and we handled their screen-and-roll. Our help side (defense) was terrific.”  

Cleveland State, however, started the second half by not scoring a basket for five minutes, including Rob Edwards botching a wide open fastbreak layup in the open court. It was just that type of basketball played Saturday.

Phillips said he didn’t considered Saturday an “ugly win” besides the amount of turnovers the Bobcats committed. Ohio shot 48 percent from the field and had 10 different scorers including Gavin Block’s 11 points — an uptick from his season average (five points).

“I got Jordan Dartis in my ear all the time telling me to shoot the ball,” Block said. “I came in today loose and ready to play. Just a different mindset today.”

Ohio played easily its worst half of basketball during the first 20 minutes of Saturday, though. It’s 28 points at halftime was the second-lowest scoring output this season (27 against Georgia Tech wasthe lowest).

Campbell had just two shots in 11 minutes. He had no touches in the post or with his back to the basket.

Simmons also came out flat: five turnovers, four points (two of which came off two free throws) and just two assists.

“Jaaron was schizophrenic: he was good Jaaron and bad Jaaron all in the same game,” Phillips said of Simmons. “And boy, when it was bad, it was driving me nuts cause we were getting good looks when we were patience but you can’t consistently go for the kill shot on the first pass every possession.”

Still, Ohio led by seven at the break thanks to Taylor’s six points, along with Cleveland State’s abysmal shooting. The Vikings shot just eight-of-30 from the field and made no 3-pointers (0-9) in the first half.

Phillips praised his team’s bench play and Taylor’s interior work after Campbell struggled to beat constant weak side help by the Vikings. The Bobcats had 21 bench points Saturday.

“The bench is a huge part of our team, we bring a lot of energy,” Taylor said. “Rodney brings a lot of energy, offensively and defensively. Jason (Carter) brings a lot of energy, offensively especially. I do what I can. Mike (Laster) had a big game today.”

But Saturday’s game was almost synonymous with Athens’ recent weather and home crowds: sometimes dull and imperfect.

“It’s probably confusing for some of our fans,” Phillips said. “Points came so easily at times last year for us, but they also came easily for the other team last year. We’ve transitioned into being a much more balanced team, we just haven’t had together since Sam Houston State game where both offense and defense are clicking and that’s the goal.”


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