After a long wait following last year’s loss to Kent State in the semifinals of the conference tournament, Ohio defeated Capital 80-57 Saturday in its season-opening exhibition.
A sizable crowd of dads and students watched inside The Convo as coach Saul Phillips used the game to explore lineups and learn more about his team. Here are three things we learned from the game.
Saturday’s win won’t count towards Ohio's win total, but it may still impact what the Bobcats’ record looks like by the end of the season. Phillips played a variety of different lineups Saturday, but all were realistic options for the regular season.
Phillips said the exhibition was “absolutely” an important part of his evaluation process. He operated his rotation as such.
He didn’t clear the bench until there was 1:25 remaining, even though Ohio sported a comfortable lead for much of the game. He played nine players.
Jordan Dartis’ hip looked healthy while Teyvion Kirk looked great attacking the rim, posting up and even grabbed six rebounds. Jason Carter limped off the court late, but Phillips said he isn’t worried about it.
Ohio dominated the glass and won the offensive rebounding battle 18-3 without committing a single over-the-back foul. Everyone was in the right spots on defense. The Bobcats recorded as many steals (seven) as fouls.
Phillips saw a lot of what he wanted to see.
But he’s said all preseason that it’s going to be awhile before he has a set rotation. He won’t put a timeframe on it.
“I’ve got abstract thoughts on what (the lineup) should look like,” Phillips said. “I don’t have concrete ideas.”
Kevin Mickle, Professional Scorer
Kevin Mickle never scored more than 14 points in his two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast. He scored 19 on Saturday and he did so while hardly looking for his own shot.
Mickle is a new man in Phillips’ free-flowing, ball-moving offense. Different post players found him for multiple open layups and dunks just because Mickle’s man doubled them.
He scored on putbacks after offensive rebounds and leadouts after turnovers. Mickle is doing the same things he’s always done. But Saturday, his energy on the court showed up on the scoreboard.
“It feels great that coach Saul gives me that much freedom,” Mickle said. “I feel so relaxed from the mood he comes out with.”
Mickle came to Ohio known as the player who didn’t show up on the stat sheet. You had to watch the game to understand his value.
He could guard five positions, he boxed out well and got around opposing box outs well. He was always in the right position on the court.
He still does all of that. It’s just going to be easier to notice.
Last season, there was Jaaron Simmons and Antonio Campbell — and then there was everything else.
Most of the points Ohio scored were either scored by the duo or scored as a direct result of something they did. This year, the Bobcats are going to have a different look.
Five players scored in double figures for the Bobcats on Saturday, something that happened only three times last season and never while Campbell was healthy.
No player recorded more than four assists, either. Yet Phillips still praised his team’s the ball movement.
That is to say: nobody had the ball for very long.
“This is the new normal for us,” Phillips said. “This is how were gonna play.”
It’s great to share the ball. Phillips would love to have different names atop the scoring list each game.
But there’s a catch. Ohio faced a couple of scoring droughts throughout Saturday’s game.
Specifically, they finished the first half on a 1-of-8 shooting drought that allowed Capital to cut the Bobcats’ lead to seven.
It’s nice to have someone who can step up during those tough times. Someone who can create a good shot out of nothing but talent. Someone who can take over at the end of close games.
It’s early, but the Bobcats don’t know who that someone will be yet.
“What do we go with when we struggle a little bit,” Phillips asked. “Do we go with hot hand on that night? That’s part of solving that riddle.”