Ohio is preparing for one of the most difficult stretches of its schedule — one that includes some of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference.
The Bobcats' next four games include two of the top four teams in the MAC West division.
But the Bobcats, who have won four straight games, aren’t looking to do anything differently.
Ohio will face Central Michigan on the road, Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Bobcats are focused on continuing what produced their four-game winning streak: good defense, sprinkled with an offense that occasionally displays potency.
“We should prepare and get ready for every game the same,” senior Quiera Lampkins said.
Ohio’s preparation typically does not differ for specific teams. That’s a principle coach Bob Boldon prefers, acknowledging he used a team-specific game plan for one team this season: Eastern Michigan.
Boldon wanted his players to guard the paint against Eastern Michigan, as the Eagles preferred to score down low. The Bobcats forced the Eagles to shoot from the perimeter last game. And it worked. They held the Eagles to 28.8 percent from the field.
But the Chippewas are the second-best scoring team in the MAC, behind Northern Illinois. Defense will have to be the focus once again.
The team’s continued focus on defense, however, might be hindered because of a significant absence. Jasmine Weatherspoon suffered a knee injury against Western Michigan last Wednesday. Weatherspoon did not play during Ohio’s game against Miami on Saturday.
She did not practice Monday, and Boldon said he doubted that she would practice Tuesday. Weatherspoon is the Bobcats’ best interior defender and her presence prevents teams from easily scoring inside.
Though Weatherspoon’s status is unknown for Wednesday, the Bobcats will need to play as if she was present. Four players on Central Michigan average double figures in points per game.
“We’re going to try to our best to stop them from scoring,” Boldon said. “We can’t outscore them.”
The Bobcats aren’t built to compete on offense against teams of the Chippewas caliber. They don’t play fast like the Chippewas, and Boldon knows that.
“We’re suited to play a half-court game,” Boldon said. “We have very smart basketball players that if the game slows down, they can kind of pick their matchups and choose how they want to score.”
Despite their elite offense, the Chippewas can’t play defense well – they’re ranked ninth in scoring defense in the conference. But they also scored 101 points against Ball State on Jan. 11.
The Bobcats prefer to play slow, and with their defense being the focus, a slow pace will be necessary. If Ohio forces Central Michigan to play slower, not succumbing to Central Michigan’s pace, then it can earn better shots on the offensive end.
“That’s not who we are,” Boldon said of the Bobcats’ inability to play fast. “We’re just not quite as good in that style as we are in a game that’s kind of a little bit slower, where possessions are more valuable.”