Ohio (10-8, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) defeated Western Michigan (6-13, 0-6 MAC) 81-76 on Tuesday night at The Convo.
The win marked the first home win for Ohio since Dec. 30, when it beat Florida International. Gavin Block had 16 points on five 3-pointers, and the Bobcats knocked down a season-high 10 3s as a team.
How it happened:
As the second half unfolded, the Bobcats never had a marginal cushion for the first 10 minutes. The Broncos kept the Ohio lead hovering between four and 10 points.
But the Bobcats were able to keep their distance. After James Gollon left in the first half with a leg injury, Ohio found itself in a rotation crunch. Enter Conner Murrell, who played a pivotal role for the Bobcats off the bench. He had only three points, but he proved to coach Saul Phillips that, if Gollon is going to miss substantial time, Murrell can be the answer as Gollon’s replacement.
The Bobcats held a lead throughout the remainder of the game, but not without a scare. Broncos’ guard Michael Flowers had a game-high 24 points, and he destroyed the Bobcats repeatedly. He was 6-of-8 from beyond the arc, and he kept WMU in the game nearly by himself.
WMU cut the lead to only two points in the final two minutes, but the Bobcats hit free throws at the end to preserve a win.
Ohio was down 15-1 to start the game, but used a huge run to take the lead, and the Bobcats led by as many as 11 in the first half. Ohio had been struggling offensively entering the game, but nailed seven 3-pointers in the first half to claim a halftime advantage.
The bummer for the Bobcats was Gollon, who left in the first half. Before leaving, though, Gollon splashed in three 3s for Ohio, and he finally seemed to find a rhythm on the court for the first time this season.
Who stood out?
Gavin Block, who had 16 points. The senior Swiss-army knife for the Bobcats isn’t always revered for his shooting, but he’s more than capable to knock down outside shots. His five made 3s were the second highest of the season and his career. He’s hit six on three different occasions.
When the Bobcats needed a strong offensive game the most, Block stepped up and provided a spark, and it was enough to elevate the Bobcats for their second conference win of the season.
Why does it matter?
The win has the Bobcats back in the win column after a rough start to conference play. They’ll play three of their next five games at home, which could shape Ohio’s season outlook.
Prior to Tuesday night’s game, Ohio had scored just 52 points in each of its last two games. But the offense seemed to click for long stretches against Western Michigan, which is a welcomed sign for Phillips. It was a step in the right direction for a team that was searching for answers following back-to-back clunkers against Kent State and Toledo.
If Ohio can rattle off wins and build off the win over Western Michigan, the mood in the locker room will continue to improve. If the Bobcats fall back into their offensive lull of the past week, the win over Western Michigan might be as good as it gets.