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Jaaron Simmons goes in for the layup against Central Michigan University during their Tuesday Night game (BLAKE NISSEN | FOR THE POST)

Ohio Men's Basketball: As Central Michigan's Marcus Keene dazzles, Ohio unravels

Jaaron Simmons sat with his head down. As he put it, Tuesday night in The Convo was weird.

No, it wasn’t Simmons losing his footing twice on a slippery floor.

What Simmons was alluding to was the Bobcats’ defense, the best in the Mid-American Conference, failing to guard Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene.

Keene had 41 points during the Chippewa’s 97-87 win over the Bobcats, finishing 15-of-25 from the field. Keene was the first 40-point scorer Ohio (14-8, 6-5 Mid-American Conference) has faced since Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw scored 42 in 2014.

“It was just a weird night,” Simmons said. “I mean, we had a kid score 40. That’s weird. I mean that’s weird, like, that doesn’t happen, but it happened and gotta respect him for that.”

One of Keene’s nine 3-pointers included a pull-up jumper from the edge of ‘O’ in Ohio’s logo. Another one was right in the face of sophomore guard Jordan Dartis. Another was in the face of Gavin Block. And one was a euro-step shot in front of Simmons to silence a raucous home crowd.

All the Bobcats could do was hang their heads.

“It hurts,” Dartis, who’s normally verbose, said bluntly.

Central Michigan (16-8, 6-5 MAC) hardly boxed out on some defensive possessions Tuesday night. Truthfully, it didn’t need to.

The Convo looked like an intramural basketball game at the local gym: plethora of offense, scarce rebounding, almost no defense.

Ohio shot 40 percent from the field and made 43 percent of its 3-pointers. Simmons almost tallied a triple-double: 30 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. The Bobcats’ 49 points at halftime was their second-best scoring output by halftime this season. But Keene erased all of that good fortune.

Whenever the Bobcats looked to gain momentum from a Simmons’ drive or Dartis 3-pointer, the Chippewas made a shot of their own.

Around the 7:56 mark, Simmons made a jumper to pull the Bobcats within three, 78-75. Simmons walked back to the defensive end, raising his arms and pumping up the crowd in connection with a “Defense!” chant.

Keene then strutted down the court and drilled a 3-pointer off a euro-step just 11 seconds later. It was the closest Ohio ever got to retaining the lead.

“It’s not a really complicated game,” coach Saul Phillips said. “Hit 15-of-25 and nine-of-18 from three on us. That’s a … that’s a problem.”

Central Michigan shot 16-35 on 3-pointers and led 34:22 of the game. The Chippewa have beaten the Bobcats four times consecutively.

Phillips said the Bobcats didn’t get enough out of freshman Jason Carter, who finished the night with more fouls (four) than points (two). Central Michigan out-rebounded Ohio 41-35, 10 of which were offensive rebounds.

But if Phillips could’ve done Tuesday all over again:

“I would’ve sent one of my GA’s over to the hotel and I would’ve abducted Keene,” Phillips said jokingly. “Would’ve put a potato sack over his head and locked him into his room until after the game. We would’ve fed him well and all that.”

Perhaps that still wouldn't have been enough. 


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