It was relatively easy the first time around. The second time, however, won’t be.
Ohio is set to play Kent State again Saturday at the M.A.C. Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
Round two will have a catch.
The Bobcats will have to maintain Golden Flashes forward Jimmy Hall — this time without their own bigman, Antonio Campbell.
"I can’t say anything is too much different," sophomore guard Jordan Dartis said. “Limit Jimmy Hall from getting buckets in the paint.”
Campbell's 18 points and five rebounds helped propel Ohio (18-8, 10-5 Mid-American Conference) past Kent State on Jan. 6, the second conference game of the season.
Even further, Campbell versus Hall could be coined as one of the MAC’s marquee bigman matchup. Hall averages 18.3 points (fifth in the conference) and 10.4 rebounds (third in the conference) per game.
But with Campbell out against Kent and for the rest of the season, Ohio now has a daunting task during its last road game of the regular season.
“We relied pretty heavily on our big lineup last time,” Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. “And that’s just not much of an option (now).”
Dartis said Thursday that the Bobcats will have to key in on boxing the Golden Flashes out to win round two.
That's no easy task, either.
Kent State (16-12, 8-7 MAC) ranks in the top four in rebounding offense (first, 1,142) and rebounding defense (fourth, 962) this season. It also has the highest rebound margin in the MAC, out rebounding teams, on average, by six rebounds per game.
Its offensive rebounding percentage is first at .404 percent.
Ohio, on the other hand, has been polarizing in terms of rebounding. It ranks second in the MAC in defensive rebounds at 27.9 per game. It ranks dead last for offensive rebounds at 8.9 this season.
“We’re going to have to guard bigger players than us at multiple positions,” Phillips said. “With their emphasis on the glass, we’re going to have to be better. Last time I thought we did a good job implementing our game plan. We’re going to have to be sharper if we hope to come out of there with a win.”
Both teams will go in riding winning streaks — Ohio at four, Kent State at three — as Saturday’s matchup could have postseason ramifications.
Ohio is within reach of a conference championship with Akron (22-6, 12-3 MAC) only two games ahead in the standings.
Yet, Phillips and company recognized the team has to take it one game at a time from here until the MAC Tournament in Cleveland.
And that starts on Saturday against Kent State.
“I don’t look at the standings as much,” Phillips said. “I’m starting to now. I don’t really worry about the standings until about now.”