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Ohio’s Ben Vander Plas (#5) drives past Cleveland State’s Franklyn Penn Jr. (#4) during the Bobcats’ match versus Cleveland State in The Convo on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020.

Men's Basketball: Ohio is focused on staying humble after its win over Cleveland State

While in the locker room for halftime, Jeff Boals cleared a whiteboard and wrote “0-0” in the middle. The Bobcats were up by 26 points, and Cleveland State hadn’t made a bucket in the final two minutes of the half.

Boals didn’t care. To him, the game had just started. Ohio was starting from square one, and it had to play like it was in the first half again.

“Honestly, it was our mentality,” Lunden McDay said. “We had to just be mature, realize it was 0-0 and play just as hard in the second half.”

Then in the dwindling minutes of Sunday’s game, news started to circle around The Convo. In its 101-46 win over Cleveland State, Ohio had set an NCAA scoring record. 

A 40-0 run by Ohio is the most dominant scoring run between two Division I schools in NCAA history. Ohio hosted a shooting gallery in The Convo that Cleveland State wasn’t invited to.

What Ohio did Sunday broke streaks and set a record. It hadn’t put up over 100 points since before Boals was head coach. The last time Ohio held a team to fewer than 50 points was against Miami on Feb. 8.

Despite this, Ohio players were calm after the game. The elation from winning was there, but the cockiness was not.

Boals hates teams with an ego. He loves the confidence his players project on the court, but hubris can and will sabotage championship-caliber teams. The head coach strives to bring up an Ohio team that knows its weaknesses and has the drive to eliminate them. 

“I think humility is one of the best things you can have in life,” Boals said. “We always talk about, ‘It's never as good as it seems, never as bad as it seems,’ you know?”

Last week, the Bobcats went toe to toe with then-No.8 Illinois and lost in the matter of seconds. For most of the audience, Ohio appeared from nowhere and almost knocked down a top-25 team. 

Illinois was floored. Coach Brad Underwood gave credit where credit was due, and Ohio was the talk of college basketball in the days after. 

What was Ohio’s reaction? Crushing disappointment. A loss is a loss, which meant there was work to do. Ohio had nine days between Illinois and Cleveland State, and they were spent well. Thirty-nine points off the bench and every Bobcat getting time on the court Sunday will bolster confidence once Mid-American Conference play begins.

There is no team too big or too small for Ohio. Whoever is on the schedule plays is a credible threat and, at the same time, defeatable. 

“We respect each opponent and prepare for them as if it was a championship game,” Dwight Wilson III said. “And it also speaks to the character of our guys because there's not one ego in this in this locker room at all. No one's cocky; no one's looking to be ‘that guy.’ Everyone looks out for each other.”

Wilson thinks a big head stems from a lack of preparation. Ohio is a young team, with Wilson being the only senior. It has no reason to be shrugging off games with nonconference opponents. Ohio almost defeated Illinois. Why can’t Cleveland State pull an upset?

The Bobcats do their homework. Boals pours over film, and players linger in The Convo long after practice to work on 3s. The next opponent is irrelevant. What matters is fixing last game’s mistakes, and the Bobcats always find something that needs improvement.

@thejackgleckler

jg011517@ohio.edu

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