Since Antonio Campbell went down with a season-ending foot injury in mid-January, Ohio’s season could typically be defined by one player.
If Jaaron Simmons played hero, Ohio had a chance. If he had an off game, the Bobcats were in trouble.
On Saturday at The Convo, the recipe for success Ohio has needed all season long finally came to fruition in Ohio’s 95-75 win over Bowling Green.
Ohio’s starting lineup combined for 83 points, with Simmons’ 26 leading the way once again.
“As a player, it’s hard to evaluate each game offensively, we just really try to go out there and win,” a cheerful Simmons said when asked if this was the best the offense has played this season. “But if you say that, then I guess it’s close!”
That’s not to say the Bobcats can’t win without Simmons. They've done it before. But it certainly helps to have the team's best player playing like it.
In addition to Simmons’ game-high point total, Jason Carter scored 19 points. Those two have carried Ohio since Campbell’s injury, but even though they were the leading scorers once again, they were just two, albeit larger, faces in the crowd.
Four other players (Kenny Kaminski, Gavin Block, Jordan Dartis and Mike Laster) scored double-digit points to continually pull away from Falcon runs on the afternoon. It was the most help Simmons or Carter or anyone else has gotten this
“Our goal is to move the ball a lot, put a lot of pressure on the defense whether that’s with the pass or the drive,” Simmons said. “Today, I feel like we did that with a little bit of both.”
But what made this particular Saturday special was that it wasn’t just Simmons that gave awe-inspiring plays.
Carter threw down a Dunk of the Year candidate slam as time ticked from the clock in the second half. Kaminski dunked while playing at the center spot, a rarity in both cases. There was even enough time for a curtain call for the starters.
“Losing Tony, from a basketball standpoint, was a complete catastrophe,” coach Saul Phillips said. “Where do you go from there? What do you do from there? It doesn’t just affect one position, it affects all the positions. Shoot, Jaaron even makes me calmer.”
Sparked by Akron coach Keith Dambrot’s comments just a day earlier, Simmons earned a double double, his fourth of the season. The only difference was that today, he had help.
“They lost, I guess, he was upset,” Simmons said of Dambrot. “But I never let a man take my confidence. Simple as that.”
Dambrot, after Akron's loss to Kent State, said that Simmons' 38-point performance a few weeks earlier was more of a fluke than anything.
“We lost at Ohio when Jaaron Simmons gets 38," Dambrot said Friday. "I’m not sure if you don’t guard Jaaron Simmons at all at the 3-line he can get 38. That’s not an absurd statement, it’s a fact.”
Simmons responded with a fury, scoring 14 points in the first half and 12 in the second. He went 10-12 shooting, too. Since the Campbell injury, Simmons has averaged 19.4 points per game and 6.6 assists. In short, Simmons has been the rock Ohio needed to rest on.
With just over two weeks left in the regular season, Ohio needs its best player to continue to rack up double doubles. But if Simmons gets the help he needs, like he got against Bowling Green, Ohio will be tough to knock out. That's not an absurd statement, it's just a fact.