In the most pivotal possession of the game, Ohio guard Jaaron Simmons made a mistake. It was unusual, as it was costly.
After a steal on one end, Simmons attempted to lob a pass to his consistent screen-and-roll partner, Antonio Campbell, who was running towards the basket. A score would’ve given Ohio a late, one-point lead against Iona on Saturday.
But even the most consistent sometimes fail: Simmons’ pass was tipped into Iona’s grasp with 27 seconds left. Iona held on to beat Ohio 79-75 Saturday in New Rochelle, New York.
“I’m not disappointed we lost, I’m disappointed in how we lost,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said.
Up to that point, Simmons was stellar: 22 points, three rebounds and four assists. He had just one turnover.
But Ohio collapsed after his late-game turnover. It failed to stop the clock until Iona’s Ej Crawford was under the basket and converting a critical and-one.
After a failed 3-point attempt from Kenny Kaminski on the returning possession — an attempt to wipe away Simmon’s rare blemish — Ohio walked away from the Hynes Athletic Center with a 5-2 record. Even worse, the Bobcats walked away and knew Saturday could’ve been different.
“I want to learn in wins, not loses,” Phillips said. “With the leadership we have on this team and as solid as we can be at times, I expected a smoother landing than what we got.”
Saturday seemed to be a battle of two big men in two fairly similar conferences: Ohio’s Campbell versus Iona’s Jordan Washington.
Campbell had 16 points and nine rebounds in the loss. Washington notched 30 points in the win. The two battled on the block early with Campbell utilizing his patented hook shot and Washington keeping the Gaels afloat with energizing put-backs.
Saturday had all the makings of an epic clash of two big men. But four fouls kept Campbell on the bench during a crucial stretch late in the second half where Ohio scored just five points in the last 7:40 minutes.
“He’s a prideful kid, it wasn’t going well for him, and I think he got wrapped up in the individual battle,” Phillips said of Campbell.
Saturday showed Ohio’s ever-improving maturity, though. Last time the Bobcats were in New York, they were embarrassed by the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, 81-68.
But Saturday was different. Ohio didn’t buckle under pressure. When Iona looked to run, Simmons commanded the floor and pace.
“It was a heck of a basketball game,” Phillips said. “It was a really good basketball game. But I don't feel real good about it now.”
Ohio lead 40-34 at halftime, but Washington dismantled the Bobcats interior defense. He had 18 points in one half, despite most of his points coming when Campbell was off the floor. The Gaels only had five shots from their other four starters in the first half.
The Gaels kept up with the Bobcats with speed and efficiency, however. Iona went on a 12-6 run to cut in the Bobcats’ fast start. The Bobcats led by 12 three different times in the first half.
Campbell and company were set to play early, as Ohio used a 9-0 run to lead 21-9 halfway through the first half.
Iona used a 2-3 zone defense and an occasional full-court press — a mistake that allowed Simmons to start going down hill and attack the basket— as the Bobcats shot 45 percent from the field Saturday. The Bobcats were also 4-0 this season when leading at halftime.
Maybe that’s why Simmons’ late-game turnover hurt so much.